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December 9, 2020
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Phosphatidylcholine: Novel Frontiers

Phosphatidylcholine is well recognized to influence health through its impact on cellular membrane integrity, and on facilitating the formation of complex lipid species, such as bile, lipoproteins and micelles. Recent advances in structural and molecular biology, however, have highlighted other novel functions for phosphatidylcholine. Nuclear receptors, key proteins involved in turning genes on and off, contain a pocket in their 3-D structure to bind different molecules that influence their genomic activity. Recently, several phosphatidylcholines, differentiated by their unique fatty acid composition, have been found to bind 2 major nuclear receptors: liver receptor homolog-1 (LRH-1) and steroidogenic factor-1 (SF-1).

These studies open up the exciting possibility that phosphatidylcholines influence health not only through their classical functions but also through directly influencing key regulators of gene expression. The specificity of nuclear receptors for specific phosphatidylcholine species with unique fatty acid compositions also highlights a potential role for nutrition scientists - especially those studying methyl-metabolism related nutrients such as choline and fatty acids - to assess whether the effects of dietary changes on gene expression and physiology are mediated through the production of specific phosphatidylcholines that bind and activate nuclear receptors. 

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Words You May Not Know
Phosphatidylcholine
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Phosphatidylcholine

Any of a class of phospholipids that contain a choline group and are a major component of cell membranes.‍

Bile
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Bile

Bile is a yellow-green fluid that is made by the liver, stored in the gallbladder and passes through the common bile duct into the duodenum where it helps digest fat. The principal components of bile are cholesterol, bile salts, and the pigment bilirubin.

Lipoprotein
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Lipoprotein

The lipoprotein particle is composed of an outer shell of phospholipid, which renders the particle soluble in water; a core of fats called lipid, including cholesterol and triglycerides and a surface apoprotein molecule that allows tissues to recognize and take up the particle. These lipoproteins are characterized by their density: high density lipoprotein (HDL), low density lipoprotein (LDL), very low density lipoprotein (VLDL).

Micelle
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Micelle

Micelles are formed by self-assembly of amphiphilic molecules. The structures contain hydrophilic/polar [water loving] region (head) and hydrophobic/nonpolar [water hating] region (tail). Micelles are formed in an aqueous solution whereby the polar [water soluble] region faces the outside surface of the micelle and the nonpolar [fat soluble] region forms the core. Micelles can deliver both hydrophilic and hydrophobic agents.

Who Wrote This
Kevin C. Klatt PhD RD
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Kevin C. Klatt, PhD, RD, is a postdoctoral fellow at the Baylor College of Medicine. Kevin received his PhD in Molecular Nutrition from Cornell University and completed his dietetic internship at the National Institutes of Health Clinical Center. Kevin’s research aims to better characterize nutrient-x-gene interactions and their impact on physiology and disease risk, using in vitro and animal model systems, as well as human intervention and controlled feeding trials. Kevin is the Inaugural Dennis M.Bier Young Career Editor at the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition and is an active member of the executive committee of the Research Dietetics Practice Group of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

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