Phosphatidylcholine biosynthesis and its significance in bacteria interacting with eukaryotic cells

Eur J Cell Biol. 2010 Dec;89(12):888-94. doi: 10.1016/j.ejcb.2010.06.013. Epub 2010 Jul 24.


Phosphatidylcholine (PC), a typical eukaryotic membrane phospholipid, is present in only about 10% of all bacterial species, in particular in bacteria interacting with eukaryotes. A number of studies revealed that PC plays a fundamental role in symbiotic and pathogenic microbe-host interactions. Agrobacterium tumefaciens mutants lacking PC are unable to elicit plant tumors. The human pathogens Brucella abortus and Legionella pneumophila require PC for full virulence. The plant symbionts Bradyrhizobium japonicum and Sinorhizobium meliloti depend on wild-type levels of PC to establish an efficient root nodule symbiosis. Two pathways for PC biosynthesis are known in bacteria, the methylation pathway and the phosphatidylcholine synthase (Pcs) pathway. The methylation pathway involves a three-step methylation of phosphatidylethanolamine by at least one phospholipid N-methyltransferase to yield phosphatidylcholine. In the Pcs pathway, choline is condensed directly with CDP-diacylglycerol to form PC. This review focuses on the biosynthetic pathways and the significance of PC in bacteria with an emphasis on plant-microbe interactions.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Bacteria / growth & development
  • Bacteria / metabolism*
  • Bacteria / pathogenicity
  • Eukaryotic Cells / microbiology*
  • Host-Pathogen Interactions / physiology
  • Humans
  • Phosphatidylcholines / biosynthesis*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism*
  • Signal Transduction / physiology


  • Phosphatidylcholines