The Kennedy pathway--De novo synthesis of phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylcholine

IUBMB Life. 2010 Jun;62(6):414-28. doi: 10.1002/iub.337.


The glycerophospholipids phosphatidylcholine (PC) and phosphatidylethanolamine (PE) account for greater than 50% of the total phospholipid species in eukaryotic membranes and thus play major roles in the structure and function of those membranes. In most eukaryotic cells, PC and PE are synthesized by an aminoalcoholphosphotransferase reaction, which uses sn-1,2-diradylglycerol and either CDP-choline or CDP-ethanolamine, respectively. This is the last step in a biosynthetic pathway known as the Kennedy pathway, so named after Eugene Kennedy who elucidated it over 50 years ago. This review will cover various aspects of the Kennedy pathway including: each of the biosynthetic steps, the functions and roles of the phospholipid products PC and PE, and how the Kennedy pathway has the potential of being a chemotherapeutic target against cancer and various infectious diseases.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Phosphatidylcholines / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / genetics
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / genetics
  • Sequence Alignment
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • phosphatidylethanolamine