Distribution and synthesis of hydrocarbons and closely related compounds in microorganisms



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Gas chromatography and. combined gas chromatography-mass spectrometry were used to survey the aliphatic hydrocarbon composition of six algae cultures, three bacterial species isolated as contaminants on carbonaceous meteorites, one marine bacterium, one fungus, and eleven bacteria that are common terrestrial contaminants. All the microorganisms analyzed (excluding Sarcina lutea) were found to contain an assortment of aliphatic hydrocarbons in the amounts of 0.00001 to 0.01% of their respective cell mass. Most microorganisms showed fatty acid distributions in the same carbon number range as the hydrocarbons, but with an incomplete correlation between the two groups of lipid components making it difficult to accept that these hydrocarbons are a result of a decarboxylation process of the corresponding fatty acids. On the other hand S. lute a contained a broad range of aliphatic hydrocarbons that make up 0.25% of the cell mass. The range of carbon numbers for the fatty acids found in S. lutea is approximately from 12 to 18, whereas the hydrocarbons are approximately from 22 to 28, the difference being uniformly 10 as if indicating that the hydrocarbons are derived from the acids by the addition of 10 carbon atoms. [...]