Fatty acids, the compounds that give a diet rich in leafy greens and fish its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits, are now also heralded for their versatility as raw materials in bioenergy production.

Great Lakes Bioenergy Research Center scientists are enamored with one particular kind of long chain fatty acid, called furan fatty acid, because it could substitute for petroleum-based products including fuel, engine lubricant, medicines and food additives. Now, a team of GLBRC collaborators at the University of Wisconsin–Madison have described a pathway for furan fatty acid production in bacteria and other cells.

Graphic by Chelsea MamottSimilar to other fatty acids, furan fatty acids, or FuFAs, are found in the membrane that forms a cell’s border. These fatty acids act like an oily filter to protect the interior of the cell against changes in the external environment. They can also act as chemical messengers that tell the cell when a toxin or stress condition is present.

FuFAs are a special class of fatty acids with broad appeal to biofuel scientists because an oxygen atom is attached in the middle of the hydrocarbon chain. Read the full story here.