Phospholipase A2-generated lipid mediators in the brain: the good, the bad, and the ugly

Neuroscientist. 2006 Jun;12(3):245-60. doi: 10.1177/1073858405285923.


Phospholipase A2 (PLA2) generates arachidonic acid, docosahexaenoic acid, and lysophospholipids from neural membrane phospholipids. These metabolites have a variety of physiological effects by themselves and also are substrates for the synthesis of more potent lipid mediators such as eicosanoids, platelet activating factor, and 4-hydroxynonenal (4-HNE). At low concentrations, these mediators act as second messengers. They affect and modulate several cell functions, including signal transduction, gene expression, and cell proliferation, but at high concentrations, these lipid mediators cause neurotoxicity. Among the metabolites generated by PLA2, 4-HNE is the most cytotoxic metabolite and is associated with the apoptotic type of neural cell death. Levels of 4-HNE are markedly increased in neurological disorders such as Alzheimer disease, Parkinson disease, ischemia, spinal cord trauma, and head injury. The purpose of this review is to summarize and integrate the vast literature on metabolites generated by PLA2 for a wider audience. The authors hope that this discussion will jump-start more studies not only on the involvement of PLA2 in neurological disorders but also on the importance of PLA2-generated lipid mediators in physiological and pathological processes.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Aldehydes / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Brain Diseases / metabolism
  • Brain Diseases / physiopathology
  • Cytotoxins / metabolism
  • Eicosanoids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Membrane Lipids / biosynthesis*
  • Nerve Degeneration / metabolism
  • Nerve Degeneration / physiopathology
  • Neurons / metabolism*
  • Phospholipases A / metabolism*
  • Phospholipases A2
  • Phospholipids / biosynthesis*


  • Aldehydes
  • Cytotoxins
  • Eicosanoids
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Phospholipids
  • Phospholipases A
  • Phospholipases A2
  • 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal