A new role for apolipoprotein E: modulating transport of polyunsaturated phospholipid molecular species in synaptic plasma membranes

J Neurochem. 2002 Jan;80(2):255-61. doi: 10.1046/j.0022-3042.2001.00688.x.


Phospholipids and their acyl group composition are important in providing the proper membrane environment for membrane protein structure and function. In particular, the highly unsaturated phospholipids in synaptic plasma membranes in the CNS are known to play an important role in modulating receptor function and neurotransmitter release processes. Apolipoprotein E (apoE) is a major apolipoprotein in the CNS, mediating the transport of cholesterol, phospholipids and their fatty acids, particularly in reparative mechanisms during neuronal injury. This study was performed to determine whether deficiency in the apoE gene contributes to an alteration of the phospholipids in synaptic plasma membranes. Phospholipid molecular species were identified and quantitated by HPLC/electrospray ionization-mass spectrometry. Analysis of the different phospholipid classes in membranes of apoE-deficient and C57BL/6 J mice indicated no obvious differences in the distribution of different phospholipid classes but substantial differences in composition of phospholipid molecular species. Of special interest was the prevalence of phospholipids (phosphatidylcholine, diacyl-phosphatidylethanolamine, and phosphatidylserine) with 22:6n-3 in both the sn-1 and sn-2 positions of SPM and these phospholipid species were significantly higher in apoE-deficient mice as compared to control mice. Since polyunsaturated fatty acids in neurons are mainly supplied by astrocytes, these results revealed a new role for apoE in regulating polyunsaturated phospholipid molecular species in neuronal membranes.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Alzheimer Disease / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Apolipoproteins E / metabolism*
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / pharmacology
  • Homeostasis / physiology
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neurons / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism*
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Synapses / metabolism*


  • Apolipoproteins E
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • polyene phosphatidylcholine
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids