Glycerophospholipids are important structural and functional components of biological membranes and constituents of serum lipoproteins and the pulmonary surfactant. In addition, glycerophospholipids act as precursors of lipid mediators such as platelet-activating factor and eicosanoids. Cellular membranes contains a distinct composition of various glycerophospholipids such as phosphatidic acid (PA), phosphatidylcholine (PC), phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylglycerol (PG), phosphatidylinositol (PI), cardiolipin (CL), lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) and lysobisphosphatidic acid (also known as bis(monoacylglycerol) hydrogen phosphate - BMP).
Glycerophospholipids are first formed by the de novo (Kennedy) pathway using fatty acids activated as acyl-CoA donors. However, the acyl groups of glycerophospholipids are highly diverse and distributed in an asymmetric manner. Saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids are usually esterified at the sn-1 position, whereas polyunsaturated acyl groups are esterified at the sn-2 position. Subsequent acyl chain remodeling (Lands cycle) generates the diverse glycerophospholipid composition and asymmetry characteristic of cell membranes.
In the de novo pathway of glycerophospholipid biosynthesis, lysophosphatidic acid (LPA) is initially formed from glycerol 3-phosphate (G3P). Next, LPA is converted to PA by a LPA acyltransferase (AGPAT, also known as LPAAT), then PA is metabolized into two types of glycerol derivatives. The first is diacylglycerol (DAG) which is converted to triacylglycerol (TAG), PC, and PE. Subsequently, PS is synthesized from PC or PE. The second is cytidine diphosphate-diacylglycerol (CDP-DAG), which is processed into PI, PG, CL, and BMP. Each glycerophospholipid is involved in acyl chain remodeling via cleavage by phospholipases followed by reacylation by an acyltransferase.
Most of the glycerophospholipids are synthesized at the endoplasmic reticulum (ER), however, some, most notably cardiolipin, and BMP are synthesized in the mitochondrial and endosomal membranes respectively. Since the most of the glycerophospholipids are found in all membrane compartments, there must be extensive network of transport of glycerophospholipids from one membrane compartment to another via various mechanisms including diffusion through the cytosol, formation of transportation complexes, and diffusion via membrane contact sites (MCS) (Osman et al. 2011, Lebiedzinska et al. 2009, Lev 2010, Scherer & Schmitz 2011, Orso et al. 2011, Hermansson et al. 2011, Vance & Vance 2008).