Posts Tagged ‘Lynen cycle’

Oxidation and Synthesis of Fatty Acids

Author and Curator: Larry H. Bernstein, MD, FCAP 


Lipid Metabolism


Overview of Lipid Catabolism:

The major aspects of lipid metabolism are involved with

  • Fatty Acid Oxidation to produce energy or
  • the synthesis of lipids which is called Lipogenesis.

The metabolism of lipids and carbohydrates are related by the conversion of lipids from carbohydrates. This can be seen in the diagram. Notice the link through actyl-CoA, the seminal discovery of Fritz Lipmann. The metabolism of both is upset by diabetes mellitus, which results in the release of ketones (2/3 betahydroxybutyric acid) into the circulation.

metabolism of fats

metabolism of fats


The first step in lipid metabolism is the hydrolysis of the lipid in the cytoplasm to produce glycerol and fatty acids.

Since glycerol is a three carbon alcohol, it is metabolized quite readily into an intermediate in glycolysis, dihydroxyacetone phosphate. The last reaction is readily reversible if glycerol is needed for the synthesis of a lipid.

The hydroxyacetone, obtained from glycerol is metabolized into one of two possible compounds. Dihydroxyacetone may be converted into pyruvic acid, a 3-C intermediate at the last step of glycolysis to make energy.

In addition, the dihydroxyacetone may also be used in gluconeogenesis (usually dependent on conversion of gluconeogenic amino acids) to make glucose-6-phosphate for glucose to the blood or glycogen depending upon what is required at that time.

Fatty acids are oxidized to acetyl CoA in the mitochondria using the fatty acid spiral. The acetyl CoA is then ultimately converted into ATP, CO2, and H2O using the citric acid cycle and the electron transport chain.

There are two major types of fatty acids – ω-3 and ω-6.  There are also saturated and unsaturated with respect to the existence of double bonds, and monounsaturated and polyunsatured.  Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are important in long term health, and it will be seen that high cardiovascular risk is most associated with a low ratio of ω-3/ω-6, the denominator being from animal fat. Ω-3 fatty acids are readily available from fish, seaweed, and flax seed. More can be said of this later.

Fatty acids are synthesized from carbohydrates and occasionally from proteins. Actually, the carbohydrates and proteins have first been catabolized into acetyl CoA. Depending upon the energy requirements, the acetyl CoA enters the citric acid cycle or is used to synthesize fatty acids in a process known as LIPOGENESIS.

The relationships between lipid and carbohydrate metabolism are
summarized in Figure 2.




 Energy Production Fatty Acid Oxidation:

Visible” ATP:

In the fatty acid spiral, there is only one reaction which directly uses ATP and that is in the initiating step. So this is a loss of ATP and must be subtracted later.

A large amount of energy is released and restored as ATP during the oxidation of fatty acids. The ATP is formed from both the fatty acid spiral and the citric acid cycle.


Connections to Electron Transport and ATP:

One turn of the fatty acid spiral produces ATP from the interaction of the coenzymes FAD (step 1) and NAD+ (step 3) with the electron transport chain. Total ATP per turn of the fatty acid spiral is:

Electron Transport Diagram – (e.t.c.)

Step 1 – FAD into e.t.c. = 2 ATP
Step 3 – NAD+ into e.t.c. = 3 ATP
Total ATP per turn of spiral = 5 ATP

In order to calculate total ATP from the fatty acid spiral, you must calculate the number of turns that the spiral makes. Remember that the number of turns is found by subtracting one from the number of acetyl CoA produced. See the graphic on the left bottom.

Example with Palmitic Acid = 16 carbons = 8 acetyl groups

Number of turns of fatty acid spiral = 8-1 = 7 turns

ATP from fatty acid spiral = 7 turns and 5 per turn = 35 ATP.

This would be a good time to remember that single ATP that was needed to get the fatty acid spiral started. Therefore subtract it now.

NET ATP from Fatty Acid Spiral = 35 – 1 = 34 ATP

Review ATP Summary for Citric Acid Cycle:The acetyl CoA produced from the fatty acid spiral enters the citric acid cycle. When calculating ATP production, you have to show how many acetyl CoA are produced from a given fatty acid as this controls how many “turns” the citric acid cycle makes.Starting with acetyl CoA, how many ATP are made using the citric acid cycle? E.T.C = electron transport chain

 Step  ATP produced
7  1
Step 4 (NAD+ to E.T.C.) 3
Step 6 (NAD+ to E.T.C.)  3
Step10 (NAD+ to E.T.C.)  3
Step 8 (FAD to E.T.C.) 2
 ATP Summary for Palmitic Acid – Complete Metabolism:The phrase “complete metabolism” means do reactions until you end up with carbon dioxide and water. This also means to use fatty acid spiral, citric acid cycle, and electron transport as needed.Starting with palmitic acid (16 carbons) how many ATP are made using fatty acid spiral? This is a review of the above panel E.T.C = electron transport chain

 Step  ATP (used -) (produced +)
Step 1 (FAD to E.T.C.) +2
Step 4 (NAD+ to E.T.C.) +3
Total ATP  +5
 7 turns  7 x 5 = 35
initial step  -1
 NET  34 ATP

The fatty acid spiral ends with the production of 8 acetyl CoA from the 16 carbon palmitic acid.

Starting with one acetyl CoA, how many ATP are made using the citric acid cycle? Above panel gave the answer of 12 ATP per acetyl CoA.

E.T.C = electron transport chain

 Step  ATP produced
One acetyl CoA per turn C.A.C. +12 ATP
8 Acetyl CoA = 8 turns C.A.C. 8 x 12 = 96 ATP
Fatty Acid Spiral 34 ATP

Fyodor Lynen

Feodor Lynen was born in Munich on 6 April 1911, the son of Wilhelm Lynen, Professor of Mechanical Engineering at the Munich Technische Hochschule. He received his Doctorate in Chemistry from Munich University under Heinrich Wieland, who had won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1927, in March 1937 with the work: «On the Toxic Substances in Amanita». in 1954 he became head of the Max-Planck-Institut für Zellchemie, newly created for him as a result of the initiative of Otto Warburg and Otto Hahn, then President of the Max-Planck-Gesellschaft zur Förderung der Wissenschaften.

Lynen’s work was devoted to the elucidation of the chemical details of metabolic processes in living cells, and of the mechanisms of metabolic regulation. The problems tackled by him, in conjunction with German and other workers, include the Pasteur effect, acetic acid degradation in yeast, the chemical structure of «activated acetic acid» of «activated isoprene», of «activated carboxylic acid», and of cytohaemin, degradation of fatty acids and formation of acetoacetic acid, degradation of tararic acid, biosynthesis of cysteine, of terpenes, of rubber, and of fatty acids.

In 1954 Lynen received the Neuberg Medal of the American Society of European Chemists and Pharmacists, in 1955 the Liebig Commemorative Medal of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker, in 1961 the Carus Medal of the Deutsche Akademie der Naturforscher «Leopoldina», and in 1963 the Otto Warburg Medal of the Gesellschaft für Physiologische Chemie. He was also a member of the U>S> National Academy of Sciences, and shared the Nobel Prize in Physiology and Medicine with Konrad Bloch in 1964, and was made President of the Gesellschaft Deutscher Chemiker (GDCh) in 1972.

This biography was written at the time of the award and first published in the book series Les Prix Nobel. It was later edited and republished in Nobel Lectures, and shortened by myself.

The Pathway from “Activated Acetic Acid” to the Terpenes and Fatty Acids

My first contact with dynamic biochemistry in 1937 occurred at an exceedingly propitious time. The remarkable investigations on the enzyme chain of respiration, on the oxygen-transferring haemin enzyme of respiration, the cytochromes, the yellow enzymes, and the pyridine proteins had thrown the first rays of light on the chemical processes underlying the mystery of biological catalysis, which had been recognised by your famous countryman Jöns Jakob Berzelius. Vitamin B2 , which is essential to the nourishment of man and of animals, had been recognised by Hugo Theorell in the form of the phosphate ester as the active group of an important class of enzymes, and the fermentation processes that are necessary for Pasteur’s “life without oxygen”

had been elucidated as the result of a sequence of reactions centered around “hydrogen shift” and “phosphate shift” with adenosine triphosphate as the phosphate-transferring coenzyme. However, 1,3-diphosphoglyceric acid, the key substance to an understanding of the chemical relation between oxidation and phosphorylation, still lay in the depths of the unknown. Never-

theless, Otto Warburg was on its trail in the course of his investigations on the fermentation enzymes, and he was able to present it to the world in 1939.

This was the period in which I carried out my first independent investigation, which was concerned with the metabolism of yeast cells after freezing in liquid air, and which brought me directly into contact with the mechanism of alcoholic fermentation. This work taught me a great deal, and yielded two important pieces of information.

  • The first was that in experiments with living cells, special attention must be given to the permeability properties of the cell membranes, and
  • the second was that the adenosine polyphosphate system plays a vital part in the cell,
    • not only in energy transfer, but
    • also in the regulation of the metabolic processes.


This investigation aroused by interest in problems of metabolic regulation, which led me to the investigation of the Pasteur effects, and has remained with me to the present day.

My subsequent concern with the problem of the acetic acid metabolism arose from my stay at Heinrich Wieland’s laboratory. Workers here had studied the oxidation of acetic acid by yeast cells, and had found that though most of the acetic acid undergoes complete oxidation, some remains in the form of succinic and citric acids.

The explanation of these observations was provided-by the Thunberg-Wieland process, according to which two molecules of acetic acid are dehydrogenated to succinic acid, which is converted back into acetic acid via oxaloacetic acid, pyruvic acid, and acetaldehyde, or combines at the oxaloacetic acid stage with a further molecule of acetic acid to form citric acid (Fig. 1). However, an experimental check on this view by a Wieland’s student Robert Sonderhoffs brought a surprise. The citric acid formed when trideuteroacetic acid was supplied to yeast cells contained the expected quantity of deuterium, but the succinic acid contained only half of the four deuterium atoms required by Wieland’s scheme.

This investigation aroused by interest in problems of metabolic regulation, which led me to the investigation of the Pasteur effects, and has remained with me to the present day. My subsequent concern with the problem of the acetic acid metabolism arose from my stay at Heinrich Wieland’s laboratory. Workers here had studied the oxidation of acetic acid by yeast cells, and had found that though most of the acetic acid undergoes complete oxidation, some remains in the form of succinic and citric acid

The answer provided by Martius was that citric acid  is in equilibrium with isocitric acid and is oxidised to cr-ketoglutaric acid, the conversion of which into succinic acid had already been discovered by Carl Neuberg (Fig. 1).

It was possible to assume with fair certainty from these results that the succinic acid produced by yeast from acetate is formed via citric acid. Sonderhoff’s experiments with deuterated acetic acid led to another important discovery.

In the analysis of the yeast cells themselves, it was found that while the carbohydrate fraction contained only insignificant quantities of deuterium, large quantities of heavy hydrogen were present in the fatty acids formed and in the sterol fraction. This showed that

  • fatty acids and sterols were formed directly from acetic acid, and not indirectly via the carbohydrates.

As a result of Sonderhoff’s early death, these important findings were not pursued further in the Munich laboratory.

  • This situation was elucidated only by Konrad Bloch’s isotope experiments, on which he reports.

My interest first turned entirely to the conversion of acetic acid into citric acid, which had been made the focus of the aerobic degradation of carbohydrates by the formulation of the citric acid cycle by Hans Adolf Krebs. Unlike Krebs, who regarded pyruvic acid as the condensation partner of acetic acid,

  • we were firmly convinced, on the basis of the experiments on yeast, that pyruvic acid is first oxidised to acetic acid, and only then does the condensation take place.

Further progress resulted from Wieland’s observation that yeast cells that had been “impoverished” in endogenous fuels by shaking under oxygen were able to oxidise added acetic acid only after a certain “induction period” (Fig. 2). This “induction period” could be shortened by addition of small quantities of a readily oxidisable substrate such as ethyl alcohol, though propyl and butyl alcohol were also effective. I explained this by assuming that acetic acid is converted, at the expense of the oxidation of the alcohol, into an “activated acetic acid”, and can only then condense with oxalacetic acid.

In retrospect, we find that I had come independently on the same group of problems as Fritz Lipmann, who had discovered that inorganic phosphate is indispensable to the oxidation of pyruvic acid by lactobacilli, and had detected acetylphosphate as an oxidation product. Since this anhydride of acetic acid and phosphoric acid could be assumed to be the “activated acetic acid”.

I learned of the advances that had been made in the meantime in the investigation of the problem of “activated acetic acid”. Fritz Lipmann has described the development at length in his Nobel Lecture’s, and I need not repeat it. The main advance was the recognition that the formation of “activated acetic acid” from acetate involved not only ATP as an energy source, but also the newly discovered coenzyme A, which contains the vitamin pantothenic acid, and that “activated acetic acid” was probably an acetylated coenzyme  A.



Fyodor Lynen

Lynen’s most important research at the University of Munich focused on intermediary metabolism, cholesterol synthesis, and fatty acid biosynthesis. Metabolism involves all the chemical processes by which an organism converts matter and energy into forms that it can use. Metabolism supplies the matter—the molecular building blocks an organism needs for the growth of new tissues. These building blocks must either come from the breakdown of molecules of food, such as glucose (sugar) and fat, or be built up from simpler molecules within the organism.

Cholesterol is one of the fatty substances found in animal tissues. The human body produces cholesterol, but this substance also enters the body in food. Meats, egg yolks, and milk products, such as butter and cheese, contain cholesterol. Such organs as the brain and liver contain much cholesterol. Cholesterol is a type of lipid, one of the classes of chemical compounds essential to human health. It makes up an important part of the membranes of each cell in the body. The body also uses cholesterol to produce vitamin D and certain hormones.

All fats are composed of an alcohol called glycerol and substances called fatty acids. A fatty acid consists of a long chain of carbon atoms, to which hydrogen atoms are attached. There are three types of fatty acids: saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated.

Living cells manufacture complicated chemical compounds from simpler substances through a process called biosynthesis. For example, simple molecules called amino acids are put together to make proteins. The biosynthesis of both fatty acids and cholesterol begins with a chemically active form of acetate, a two-carbon molecule. Lynen discovered that the active form of acetate is a coenzyme, a heat-stabilized, water-soluble portion of an enzyme, called acetyl coenzyme A. Lynen and his colleagues demonstrated that the formation of cholesterol begins with the condensation of two molecules of acetyl coenzyme A to form acetoacetyl coenzyme A, a four-carbon molecule.


Fyodor Lynen

Fyodor Lynen

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