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.