Background: Although biomarkers of choline metabolism are altered by pregnancy, little is known about the influence of human pregnancy on the dynamics of choline-related metabolic processes.
Objective: This study used stable isotope methodology to examine the effects of pregnancy on choline partitioning and the metabolic activity of choline-related pathways.
Design: Healthy third-trimester pregnant (n = 26; initially week 27 of gestation) and nonpregnant (n = 21) women consumed 22% of their total choline intake (480 or 930 mg/d) as methyl-d9-choline for the final 6 wk of a 12-wk feeding study.
Results: Plasma d9-betaine:d9-phosphatidylcholine (PC) was lower (P ≤ 0.04) in pregnant than in nonpregnant women, suggesting greater partitioning of choline into the cytidine diphosphate-choline (CDP-choline) PC biosynthetic pathway relative to betaine synthesis during pregnancy. Pregnant women also used more choline-derived methyl groups for PC synthesis via phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase (PEMT) as indicated by comparable increases in PEMT-PC enrichment in pregnant and nonpregnant women despite unequal (pregnant > nonpregnant; P < 0.001) PC pool sizes. Pregnancy enhanced the hydrolysis of PEMT-PC to free choline as shown by greater (P < 0.001) plasma d3-choline:d3-PC. Notably, d3-PC enrichment increased (P ≤ 0.011) incrementally from maternal to placental to fetal compartments, signifying the selective transfer of PEMT-PC to the fetus.
Conclusions: The enhanced use of choline for PC production via both the CDP-choline and PEMT pathways shows the substantial demand for choline during late pregnancy. Selective partitioning of PEMT-PC to the fetal compartment may imply a unique requirement of PEMT-PC by the developing fetus.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT01127022.