They are the main part of plant membrane lipids where they substitute phospholipids to conserve phosphate for other essential processes. These chloroplast membranes contain a high quantity of monogalactosyldiacylglycerol (MGDG) and digalactosyldiacylglycerol (DGDG).
Galactolipids are more bioavailable than free fatty acids, and have been shown to exhibit COX mediated anti-inflammatory activity. Bio-guided fractionation of spinach leaves (Spinacia oleracea) revealed alpha-linolenic acid galactolipids (18:3, n-3) were responsible for inhibitory effects on tumor promoter-induced Epstein-Barr virus (EBV) activation. Recently, it has been demonstrated that this same galactolipid, 1,2-di-O-α-linolenoyl-3-O-α-D-galactopyranosyl-sn-glycerol, may be important for the anti-inflammatory activity of Dog Rose (Rosa canina), a medicinal plant with documented effect on anti-inflammatory diseases such as arthritis.
The galactolipid galactocerebroside (GalC) and its sulfated derivative sulfatide is also in abundance present (together with a small group of proteins) in myelin, the membrane around the axons in the nervous system of vertebrates.
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- Galactolipids rather than phlorotannins as herbivore deterrents in the brown seaweed Fucus vesiculosus. Michael S. Deal, Mark E. Hay, Dean Wilson and William Fenical, Oecologia, June 2003, Volume 136, Issue 1, pages 107-114, doi:10.1007/s00442-003-1242-3
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