Pathways for Phosphatidylcholine Biosynthesis in Bacteria

Microbiology. 2003 Dec;149(Pt 12):3461-3471. doi: 10.1099/mic.0.26522-0.


Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is the major membrane-forming phospholipid in eukaryotes with important structural and signalling functions. Although many prokaryotes lack PC, it can be found in significant amounts in membranes of rather diverse bacteria. Two pathways for PC biosynthesis are known in bacteria, the methylation pathway and the phosphatidylcholine synthase (PCS) pathway. In the methylation pathway, phosphatidylethanolamine is methylated three times to yield PC, in reactions catalysed by one or several phospholipid N-methyltransferases (PMTs). In the PCS pathway, choline is condensed directly with CDP-diacylglyceride to form PC in a reaction catalysed by PCS. Using cell-free extracts, it was demonstrated that Sinorhizobium meliloti, Agrobacterium tumefaciens, Rhizobium leguminosarum, Bradyrhizobium japonicum, Mesorhizobium loti and Legionella pneumophila have both PMT and PCS activities. In addition, Rhodobacter sphaeroides has PMT activity and Brucella melitensis, Pseudomonas aeruginosa and Borrelia burgdorferi have PCS activities. Genes from M. loti and L. pneumophila encoding a Pmt or a Pcs activity and the genes from P. aeruginosa and Borrelia burgdorferi responsible for Pcs activity have been identified. Based on these functional assignments and on genomic data, one might predict that if bacteria contain PC as a membrane lipid, they usually possess both bacterial pathways for PC biosynthesis. However, important pathogens such as Brucella melitensis, P. aeruginosa and Borrelia burgdorferi seem to be exceptional as they possess only the PCS pathway for PC formation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Bacteria / genetics
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Base Sequence
  • CDPdiacylglycerol-Serine O-Phosphatidyltransferase / genetics
  • CDPdiacylglycerol-Serine O-Phosphatidyltransferase / metabolism
  • DNA, Bacterial / genetics
  • Diacylglycerol Cholinephosphotransferase / genetics
  • Diacylglycerol Cholinephosphotransferase / metabolism
  • Genes, Bacterial
  • Membrane Lipids / biosynthesis
  • Methylation
  • Methyltransferases / genetics
  • Methyltransferases / metabolism
  • Open Reading Frames
  • Phosphatidyl-N-Methylethanolamine N-Methyltransferase
  • Phosphatidylcholines / biosynthesis*
  • Phylogeny


  • DNA, Bacterial
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Methyltransferases
  • Phosphatidyl-N-Methylethanolamine N-Methyltransferase
  • Diacylglycerol Cholinephosphotransferase
  • CDPdiacylglycerol-Serine O-Phosphatidyltransferase