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Phospholipase D and Choline Metabolism

  • Fredrick O. Onono
  • Andrew J. MorrisEmail author
Part of the Handbook of Experimental Pharmacology book series


Phospholipases D (PLDs) catalyze hydrolysis of the diester bond of phospholipids to generate phosphatidic acid and the free lipid headgroup. In mammals, PLD enzymes comprise the intracellular enzymes PLD1 and PLD2 and possibly the proteins encoded by related genes, as well as a class of cell surface and secreted enzymes with structural homology to ectonucleotide phosphatases/phosphodiesterases as typified by autotaxin (ENPP2) that have lysoPLD activities. Genetic and pharmacological loss-of-function approaches implicate these enzymes in intra- and intercellular signaling mediated by the lipid products phosphatidic acid, lysophosphatidic acid, and their metabolites, while the possibility that the water-soluble product of their reactions is biologically relevant has received far less attention. PLD1 and PLD2 are highly selective for phosphatidylcholine (PC), whereas autotaxin has broader substrate specificity for lysophospholipids but by virtue of the high abundance of lysophosphatidylcholine (LPC) in extracellular fluids predominantly hydrolyses this substrate. In all cases, the water-soluble product of these PLD activities is choline. Although choline can be formed de novo by methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine, this activity is absent in most tissues, so mammals are effectively auxotrophic for choline. Dietary consumption of choline in both free and esterified forms is substantial. Choline is necessary for synthesis of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine and of the choline-containing phospholipids PC and sphingomyelin (SM) and also plays a recently appreciated important role as a methyl donor in the pathways of “one-carbon (1C)” metabolism. This review discusses emerging evidence that some of the biological functions of these intra- and extracellular PLD enzymes involve generation of choline with a particular focus on the possibility that these choline and PLD dependent processes are dysregulated in cancer.


Choline One carbon metabolism Phospholipase D 



Research in the author’s laboratories is supported by grants from the NIH and the Department of Veterans Affairs. FOO is the recipient of an NIH/NCI Mentored Research Scientist Development Award K01CA197073.


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© Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Division of Cardiovascular MedicineThe Gill Heart and Vascular Institute, University of Kentucky College of MedicineLexingtonUSA
  2. 2.Lexington Veterans Affairs Medical CenterLexingtonUSA

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