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Hoffmann, R. A wiki for the life sciences where authorship matters. Nature Genetics (2008)

Natural phosphatidylcholine is actively translocated across the plasma membrane to the surface of mammalian cells.

The cell surface of eukaryotic cells is enriched in choline phospholipids, whereas the aminophospholipids are concentrated at the cytosolic side of the plasma membrane by the activity of one or more P-type ATPases. Lipid translocation has been investigated mostly by using short chain lipid analogs because assays for endogenous lipids are inherently complicated. In the present paper, we optimized two independent assays for the translocation of natural phosphatidylcholine (PC) to the cell surface based on the hydrolysis of outer leaflet phosphoglycerolipids by exogenous phospholipase A2 and the exchange of outer leaflet PC by a transfer protein. We report that PC reached the cell surface in the absence of vesicular traffic by a pathway that involved translocation across the plasma membrane. In erythrocytes, PC that was labeled at the inside of the plasma membrane was translocated to the cell surface with a half-time of 30 min. This translocation was probably mediated by an ATPase, because it required ATP and was vanadate-sensitive. The inhibition of PC translocation by glibenclamide, an inhibitor of various ATP binding cassette transporters, and its reduction in erythrocytes from both Abcb1a/1b and Abcb4 knockout mice, suggest the involvement of ATP binding cassette transporters in natural PC cell surface translocation. The relative importance of the outward translocation of PC as compared with the well characterized fast inward translocation of phosphatidylserine for the overall asymmetric phospholipid organization in plasma membranes remains to be established.[1]


  1. Natural phosphatidylcholine is actively translocated across the plasma membrane to the surface of mammalian cells. Kälin, N., Fernandes, J., Hrafnsdóttir, S., van Meer, G. J. Biol. Chem. (2004) [Pubmed]
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