[show abstract][hide abstract] ABSTRACT: The membrane lipids of archaea are characterized by unique isoprenoid biochemistry, which typically is based on two core lipid structures, sn-2,3-diphytanylglycerol diether (archaeol) and sn-2,3-dibiphytanyldiglycerol tetraether (caldarchaeol). The biosynthetic pathway for the tetraether lipid entails unprecedented head-to-head coupling of isoprenoid intermediates by an unknown mechanism involving unidentified enzymes. To investigate the isoprenoid ether lipid biosynthesis pathway of the hyperthermophilic archaeon, Archaeoglobus fulgidus, its lipid synthesis machinery was reconstructed in an engineered Escherichia coli strain in an effort to demonstrate, for the first time, efficient isoprenoid ether lipid biosynthesis for the production of the intermediate, digeranylgeranylglyceryl phosphate (DGGGP). The biosynthesis of DGGGP was verified using an LC/MS/MS technique and was accomplished by cloning and expressing the native E. coli gene for isopentenyl diphosphate (IPP) isomerase (idi), along with the A. fulgidus genes for G1P dehydrogenase (egsA) and GGPP synthase (gps), under the control of the lac promoter. The A. fulgidus genes for GGGP synthase (GGGPS) and DGGGP synthase (DGGGPS), under the control of the araBAD promoter, were then introduced and expressed to enable DGGGP biosynthesis in vivo. This investigation established roles for four A. fulgidus genes in the isoprenoid ether lipid pathway for DGGGP biosynthesis and provides a platform useful for identification of subsequent, currently unknown, steps in tetraether lipid biosynthesis proceeding from DGGGP, which is the presumed substrate for the head-to-head coupling reaction yielding unsaturated caldarchaeol.