The independence of photosynthesis and aerobiosis from sterol biosynthesis in bacteria

William R. Nes, John H. Adler, Constantin Frasinel, W. David Nes, Michael Young, John M. Joseph

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

12 Scopus citations


Sterols were present in neither of two representative species of photosynthetic bacteria, Rhodopseudomonas spheroides and Chromatium vinosum. These organisms were grown under conditions commonly viewed as anaerobic. However, such conditions did not prevent Saccharomyces cerevisiae from biosynthesizing sterols, although they did induce accumulation of both 4,4-dimethyl and 4-desmethyl intermediates. Since the photosynthetic organisms did not biosynthesize sterols, bacterial photosynthesis must not be mated genetically or functionally to sterol biosynthesis. In contrast to what the literature records, Escherichia coli, grown under fully aerobic conditions, also failed to contain sterols which indicates that bacterial aerobiosis does not necessarily imply either the presence of sterol biosynthesis or a requirement for an exogenous source of sterols. Among the lipids of E. coli was a substance with the formula C16H32O2 which moved in silica gel TLC at a rate similar to that of sterols and may have been a keto-alcohol of the same formula already isolated from coliforms. In the photosynthetic bacteria the major neutral lipid after saponification was phytol, in agreement with expectation based on the presence of bacteriochlorophyll-a.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1439-1443
Number of pages5
Issue number7
StatePublished - 1980


  • Chromatium vinosum
  • Escherichia coli
  • Rhodopseudomonas spheroides
  • Saccharomyces cerevisiae
  • anaerobiosis and aerobiosis
  • bacteria
  • photosynthesis
  • phytol.
  • sterol


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