Accumulation of high-value lipids in single-cell microorganisms: A mechanistic approach and future perspectives

Luis A. Garay, Kyria L. Boundy-Mills, J. Bruce German

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

88 Scopus citations


In recent years attention has been focused on the utilization of microorganisms as alternatives for industrial and nutritional applications. Considerable research has been devoted to techniques for growth, extraction, and purification of high-value lipids for their use as biofuels and biosurfactants as well as high-value metabolites for nutrition and health. These successes argue that the elucidation of the mechanisms underlying the microbial biosynthesis of such molecules, which are far from being completely understood, now will yield spectacular opportunities for industrial scale biomolecular production. There are important additional questions to be solved to optimize the processing strategies to take advantage of the assets of microbial lipids. The present review describes the current state of knowledge regarding lipid biosynthesis, accumulation, and transport mechanisms present in single-cell organisms, specifically yeasts, microalgae, bacteria, and archaea. Similarities and differences in biochemical pathways and strategies of different microorganisms provide a diverse toolset to the expansion of biotechnologies for lipid production. This paper is intended to inspire a generation of lipid scientists to insights that will drive the biotechnologies of microbial production as uniquely enabling players of lipid biotherapeutics, biofuels, biomaterials, and other opportunity areas into the 21st century.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2709-2727
Number of pages19
JournalJournal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry
Issue number13
StatePublished - Apr 2 2014


  • lipid droplets
  • microbial lipids
  • polyhydroxyalkanoate
  • sterol esters
  • triacylglycerols

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Agricultural and Biological Sciences(all)
  • Chemistry(all)


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