Archaea constitute one of the three fundamental domains of life. Archaea possess unique lipids in their cell membranes which distinguish them from bacteria and eukaryotes. This difference in lipid composition is referred to as ‘Lipid Divide' and its origins remain elusive. Chemical inertness and the highly branched nature of the archaeal lipids afford the membranes stability against extremes of temperature, pH, and salinity. Based on the molecular architecture, archaeal polar lipids are of two types — monopolar and bipolar. Both monopolar and bipolar lipids have been shown to form vesicles and other well-defined membrane architectures. Bipolar archaeal lipids are among the most unique lipids found in nature because of their membrane-spanning nature and mechanical stability. The majority of the self-assembly studies on archaeal lipids have been carried out using crude polar lipid extracts or molecular mimics. The complexity of the archaeal lipids makes them challenging to synthesize chemically, and as a result, studies on pure lipids are few. There is an ongoing effort to develop simplified routes to synthesize complex archaeal lipids to facilitate diverse biophysical studies and pharmaceutical applications. Investigation on archaeal lipids may help us understand how life survives in extreme conditions and therefore unlock some of the mysteries surrounding the origins of cellular life.

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