A novel group of very long chain polyenoic fatty acids in dipolyunsaturated phosphatidylcholines from vertebrate retina

J Biol Chem. 1987 Jan 25;262(3):1172-9.


Dipolyunsaturated phosphatidylcholines from bovine retina contain a whole series of unusual fatty acids. Methyl esters from these acids are very strongly retained on polar and nonpolar gas-liquid chromatography stationary phases. On thin layers of silica-AgNO3, they separate as tetra-, penta-, and hexaenoic fatty acid methyl esters. After hydrogenation, the three polyunsaturated fractions give the same series of saturated methyl esters, having 20 (or 22)-36 carbon atoms. High pressure liquid chromatography, as well as gas-liquid chromatography, indicates that the new components of the three fractions are even-carbon homologs of well known polyenoic fatty acids of the n-6 and n-3 families, since they behave as series of 20-36-carbon tetraenoic (n-6), pentaenoic (n-3 and n-6), and hexaenoic (n-3) fatty acids. Their occurrence in phospholipid molecules also having docosahexaenoate (22:6) explains the separation of major dipolyunsaturated phosphatidylcholines from retina into dodecaenoic, undecaenoic, and decaenoic fractions after argentation thin layer chromatography. Using high pressure liquid chromatography, the latter are resolved into individual species having 10-12 double bonds and 42-58 carbon atoms. The unusual PCs are thus endowed not only with the highest degree of unsaturation, but with the longest hydrocarbon chains yet reported for vertebrate glycerophospholipids. It is shown that phosphatidylcholines containing the novel fatty acids are highly concentrated in photoreceptor membranes and that they occur in the retina of vertebrates so distant in evolution as fish, birds, and various mammals.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cattle
  • Chromatography, Gas
  • Chromatography, High Pressure Liquid
  • Chromatography, Thin Layer
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated / analysis*
  • Phosphatidylcholines / analysis*
  • Photoreceptor Cells / analysis
  • Retina / analysis*


  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Phosphatidylcholines