Tumour phospholipid metabolism

NMR Biomed. 1999 Nov;12(7):413-39. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1099-1492(199911)12:7<413::aid-nbm587>3.0.co;2-u.


Following the impetus of early clinical and experimental investigations, in vivo and in vitro MRS studies of tumours pointed in the eighties to the possible significance of signals arising from phospholipid (PL) precursors and catabolites as novel biochemical indicators of in vivo tumour progression and response to therapy. In the present decade, MRS analyses of individual components contributing to the 31P PME (phosphomonoester) and PDE (phosphodiester) resonances, as well as to the 1H 'choline peak', have reinforced some of these expectations. Moreover, the absolute quantification of these signals provided the basis for addressing more specific (although still open) questions on the biochemical mechanisms responsible for the formation of intracellular pools of PL derivatives in tumours, under different conditions of cell proliferative status and/or malignancy level. This article is aimed at providing an overview on: (a) quantitative MRS measurements on the contents of phosphocholine (PCho), phosphoethanolamine (PEtn) and their glycerol derivatives ģlycerol 3-phosphocholine (GPC) and glycerol 3-phosphoethanolamine (GPE)[ in human tumours and cells (with particular attention to breast and brain cancer and lymphomas), as well as in normal mammalian tissues (including developing organs and rapidly proliferating tissues); (b) possible correlations of MRS parameters like PEtn/PCho and PCho/GPC ratios with in vitro cell growth status and/or cell tumorigenicity; and (c) current and new hypotheses on the role and interplay of biosynthetic and catabolic pathways of the choline and ethanolamine cycles in modulating the intracellular sizes of PCho and PEtn pools, either in response to mitogenic stimuli or in relation to malignant transformation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Ethanolamines / analysis
  • Humans
  • Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy
  • Neoplasms / chemistry
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / analysis
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / analysis
  • Phospholipids / analysis
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Phosphorylcholine / analysis


  • Ethanolamines
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Phospholipids
  • Phosphorylcholine
  • phosphorylethanolamine