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J Biol Chem. 2004 Oct 1;279(40):42321-30. Epub 2004 Jul 21.

Phosphatidylcholine and N-methylated phospholipids are nonessential in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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  • 1Program in Cell Biology, National Jewish Medical and Research Center, Denver, CO 80206, USA.


Phosphatidylcholine (PtdCho) is the most abundant phospholipid in numerous eukaryotes and is generally thought to be essential for membrane structure and cellular function. We designed a specific test of this idea by using genetic and biochemical manipulation of yeast. Yeast mutants (pem1 pem2Delta) lacking the phosphatidylethanolamine (PtdEtn) methyltransferase enzymes require choline for growth and cannot make N-methylated phospholipids. When these strains are grown on a glucose carbon source supplemented with 20 mm propanolamine (Prn), the PtdCho level declines precipitously to the limits of detection (<0.6%), and the hexagonal phase-forming, primary amine-containing lipids, PtdEtn and PtdPrn, constitute approximately 60% of the total phospholipid content of the cell. When the lipids were analyzed by mass spectrometry, there was no compensatory shift in unsaturation of the PtdEtn and PtdPrn toward more bilayer-forming species. Thus the majority of the cellular amino phospholipids remained hexagonal phase-forming. The pem1 pem2Delta cells will also grow without choline, in the presence of Prn, on nonfermentable carbon sources (requiring functional mitochondria) and accumulate nearly 70% of their phospholipid as hexagonal phase-forming types. These data provide compelling evidence that the functions of PtdCho and N-methylated lipids in membranes are nonessential in Saccharomyces cerevisiae.

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