Phosphatidylethanolamine metabolism

Phospholipids are crucial components of the cell membrane bilayers. Most of these phospholipids are composed of a diglyceride (diacylglycerol) moiety, a phosphate group and a simple organic molecule such as choline, serine or ethanolamine. The anionic phosphate group and polar groups such as choline forms the hydrophilic head and the fatty acid chains in diacylglycerol forms the hydrophobic tails in the membrane bilayer. Phosphatidic acids with ethanolamine and serine attached are referred to as phosphatidylethanolamine (cephalin) and phosphatidylserine respectively. Phosphatidylethanolamine is found in all living cells and it is the principal phospholipid in bacteria.


The apicomplexan parasites, Plasmodium falciparum and Toxoplasma gondii can de novo synthesise phospholipids such as phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine from choline, ethanolamine and serine respectively [1, 2]. The analysis of Piroplasma genomes showed that they can also de novo synthesise phosphatidylethanolamine from ethanolamine. The phosphatidylserine synthase enzyme of both type 1 (P. falciparum) and type 2 (T. gondii) is absent in these genomes suggesting the absence of the de novo biosynthesis of phosphatidylserine. The phosphatidylserine decarboxylase enzyme catalysing the conversion of phosphatidylserine to phosphatidylethanolamine is present in the gene models of Theileria species, although it is missing in the genome of Babesia bovis. The enzymes which belong to the catabolism branch of phosphatidylethanolamine metabolism and cardiolipin biosynthesis present in other apicomplexans are also present in Piroplasma. The phosphatidylethanolamine N-methyltransferase enzyme (, produces monomethyl-phosphatidylethanolamine) present in T. gondii is absent in other apicomplexans including Piroplasma species.


Enzyme EC Number Gene id
Glycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase TA19480
Diacylglycerol O-acyltransferase TA19620
1-Acylglycerol-3-phosphate O-acyltransferase TA14465
Diacylglycerol kinase TA13375
Ethanolamine kinase TA06525
Ethanolamine-phosphate cytidylyltransferase TA07160
Phosphatidate cytidylyltransferase TA17300
Cardiolipin synthetase 2.7.8.- TA07875
Ethanolaminephosphotransferase TA09530
CDP-diacylglycerol-glycerol-3-phosphate 3-phosphatidyltransferase TA16500
Phospholipase A2 TA11025
Phospholipase A2 TA17010
Phospholipase A2 TA18220
Lysohospholipase TA02875
Lysohospholipase TA03315
Lysohospholipase TA09615
Lysohospholipase TA17285
Lysohospholipase TA18005
Phosphatidylglycerophosphatase Missing in annotation
Phospholipase C TA06965
Glycerophosphodiester phosphodiesterase TA02915
Phosphatidylserine decarboxylase TA09760
Long-chain-fatty-acid-CoA-ligase TA15995
Long-chain-fatty-acid-CoA-ligase TA18970
Long-chain-fatty-acid-CoA-ligase TA20445
Acyl-CoA binding protein none TA19910
MSF-1 none Missing in annotation


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Sources and fates of metabolites


Substrate Source pathways Product Fate pathways
Ethanolamine Host    
Fatty acid Host Cardiolipin Inner mitochondrial membrane
Glycerol-3P Glycolysis, Phosphatidylcholine metabolism Triacylglycerol Recycling of phospholipids, Storage in lipid bodies
Phosphatidylserine Host