The fatty acid composition of the dimorphic bacterium Caulobacter crescentus was found to consist primarily of 16- and 18-carbon fatty acids, both saturated and monounsaturated, in agreement with the findings of Chow and Schmidt (J. Gen. Microbiol. 83:359-373, 1974). In addition, two minor but as yet unidentified fatty acids were detected. Chromatographic mobilities suggested that these fatty acids may be a cyclopropane and a branched-chain fatty acid. In addition, we demonstrated that the fatty acid composition of wild-type C. crescentus can be altered by growing the cells in medium supplemented with any one of a variety of unsaturated fatty acids. Linoleic acid, a diunsaturated fatty acid which is not synthesized by C. crescentus, was incorporated into phospholipids without apparent modification. In addition, we found that C. crescentus, like Escherichia coli, synthesizes vaccenic acid (18:1 delta 11,cis) rather than oleic acid (18:1 delta 9,cis). This result allowed us to deduce that the mechanism of fatty acid desaturation in C. crescentus is anaerobic, as it is in E. coli. Finally, we examined the fatty acid biosynthesis and composition of two unsaturated fatty acid auxotrophs of C. crescentus. Neither of these mutants resembled the E. coli unsaturated fatty acid auxotrophs, which have defined enzymatic lesions in fatty acid biosynthesis. Rather, the mutants appeared to have defects relating to the complex coordination of membrane biogenesis and cell cycle events in C. crescentus
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