DAG tales: the multiple faces of diacylglycerol--stereochemistry, metabolism, and signaling

Cell Mol Life Sci. 2015 Oct;72(20):3931-52. doi: 10.1007/s00018-015-1982-3. Epub 2015 Jul 8.


The neutral lipids diacylglycerols (DAGs) are involved in a plethora of metabolic pathways. They function as components of cellular membranes, as building blocks for glycero(phospho)lipids, and as lipid second messengers. Considering their central role in multiple metabolic processes and signaling pathways, cellular DAG levels require a tight regulation to ensure a constant and controlled availability. Interestingly, DAG species are versatile in their chemical structure. Besides the different fatty acid species esterified to the glycerol backbone, DAGs can occur in three different stereo/regioisoforms, each with unique biological properties. Recent scientific advances have revealed that DAG metabolizing enzymes generate and distinguish different DAG isoforms, and that only one DAG isoform holds signaling properties. Herein, we review the current knowledge of DAG stereochemistry and their impact on cellular metabolism and signaling. Further, we describe intracellular DAG turnover and its stereochemistry in a 3-pool model to illustrate the spatial and stereochemical separation and hereby the diversity of cellular DAG metabolism.

Keywords: Acyltransferase; Hydrolase; Insulin; Kinase; Lipase.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Diglycerides / chemistry
  • Diglycerides / metabolism
  • Diglycerides / physiology*
  • Insulin / metabolism
  • Metabolic Networks and Pathways
  • Mice
  • Models, Biological
  • Signal Transduction*
  • Stereoisomerism
  • Type C Phospholipases / metabolism


  • Diglycerides
  • Insulin
  • Type C Phospholipases