A bacterial light response reveals an orphan desaturase for human plasmalogen synthesis

Journal: Science

Published: 2019-10-04

DOI: 10.1126/science.aay1436

Affiliations: 2

Authors: 9

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Research Highlight

Function of mysterious enzyme determined



The long-standing mystery of how the body makes plasmalogens — a group of lipids that play a role in signalling and membrane fluidity and that have been implicated in diseases such as Alzheimer’s, cancer and chronic obstructive pulmonary disease — has been resolved.

By studying a social microbe that commonly grows in damp soil, a team from the Spanish National Research Council discovered the bacterial enzyme responsible for forming a type of chemical bond that defines plasmalogen identity.

The researchers also showed that the equivalent enzyme in humans, which had no previously known function, could catalyse the final step in plasmalogen biosynthesis, in both bacterial and human cells.

The discovery is expected to spur research into plasmalogens, since by manipulating this enzyme researchers will be able to explore how plasmalogens contribute to health and disease.

Supported content

  1. Science 366, 128–132 (2019). doi: 10.1126/science.aay1436
Institutions Share
Área de Genética (UMU-IQFR CSIC), Spain 0.89
Institute of Physical Chemistry "Rocasolano" (IQFR), CSIC, Spain 0.11