A great number of novel and unique chemical structures of archaeal polar lipids have been reported. Since 1993, when those lipids were reviewed in several review articles, a variety of core lipids and lipids with unique polar groups have been reported successively. We summarize new lipid structures from archaea elucidated after 1993. In addition to lipids from intact archaeal cells, more diverse structures of archaea-related lipids found in environmental samples are also reviewed. These lipids are assumed to be lipids from unidentified or ancient archaea or related organisms. In the second part of this paper, taxonomic and ecological aspects are discussed. Another aspect of archaeal lipid study has to do with its physiological significance, particularly the phase behavior and permeability of archaeal lipid membranes in relation to the thermophily of many archaea. In the last part of this review we discuss this problem.
2005 by Japan Society for Bioscience, Biotechnology, and Agrochemistry