Fatty acid composition of human brain phospholipids during normal development

J Neurochem. 1998 Dec;71(6):2528-33. doi: 10.1046/j.1471-4159.1998.71062528.x.


The fatty acid composition of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), ethanolamine plasmalogens (EPs), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylcholine (PC), and sphingomyelin was studied in 22 human forebrains, ranging in age from 26 prenatal weeks to 8 postnatal years. Phospholipids were separated by two-dimensional TLC, and the fatty acid methyl esters studied by capillary column GLC. Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) increased with age in PE and PC, whereas arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) remained quite constant. In EP, 22:6n-3 increased less markedly than 20:4n-6, adrenic (22:4n-6) and oleic (18:1n-9) acids being the predominant fatty acids during postnatal age. In PS, 18:1n-9 increased dramatically throughout development, and 20:4n-6 and 22:4n-6 increased only until approximately 6 months of age. Although 22:6n-3 kept quite constant during development in PS, its percentage decreased due to the accretion of other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). As a characteristic myelin lipid, sphingomyelin was mainly constituted by very long chain saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Among them, nervonic acid (24:1n-9) was the major very long chain fatty acid in Sp, followed by 24:0, 26:1n-9, and 26:0, and its accretion after birth was dramatic. As myelination advanced, 18:1n-9 increased markedly in all four glycerophospholipids, predominating in EP, PS, and PC. In contrast, 22:6n-3 was the most important PUFA in PE in the mature forebrain.

MeSH terms

  • Aging / metabolism*
  • Arachidonic Acid / metabolism
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Child
  • Child, Preschool
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids / metabolism
  • Erucic Acids / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Fetus
  • Glycerophospholipids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Infant
  • Infant, Newborn
  • Phosphatidylcholines / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines / metabolism
  • Phosphatidylserines / metabolism
  • Phospholipids / metabolism*
  • Plasmalogens / metabolism
  • Reference Values


  • Erucic Acids
  • Fatty Acids
  • Fatty Acids, Unsaturated
  • Glycerophospholipids
  • Phosphatidylcholines
  • Phosphatidylethanolamines
  • Phosphatidylserines
  • Phospholipids
  • Plasmalogens
  • phosphatidal ethanolamines
  • adrenic acid
  • Docosahexaenoic Acids
  • Arachidonic Acid