The membrane lipid composition of planctomycetes capable of the anaerobic oxidation of ammonium (anammox), i.e. Candidatus'Brocadia anammoxidans' and Candidatus'Kuenenia stuttgartiensis', was shown to be composed mainly of so-called ladderane lipids. These lipids are comprised of three to five linearly concatenated cyclobutane moieties with cis ring junctions, which occurred as fatty acids, fatty alcohols, alkyl glycerol monoethers, dialkyl glycerol diethers and mixed glycerol ether/esters. The highly strained ladderane moieties were thermally unstable, which resulted in breakdown during their analysis with GC. This was shown by isolation of a thermal product of these ladderanes and subsequent analysis with two-dimensional NMR techniques. Comprehensive MS and relative retention time data for all the encountered ladderane membrane lipids is reported, allowing the identification of ladderanes in other bacterial cultures and in the environment. The occurrence of ladderane lipids seems to be limited to the specific phylogenetic clade within the Planctomycetales able to perform anammox. This was consistent with their proposed biochemical function, namely as predominant membrane lipids of the so-called anammoxosome, the specific organelle where anammox catabolism takes place in the cell.
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