Fatty Acid Composition of Human Brain Phospholipids During Normal Development


Address correspondence and reprint requests to Dr. M. Martínez at Laboratory of Lipids and Human Brain Development, Center for Research in Biochemistry and Molecular Biology, Maternity-Children's Hospital Vall d'Hebron, Planta 14, P. Vall d'Hebron 119–129, 08035 Barcelona, Spain.


Abstract: The fatty acid composition of phosphatidylethanolamine (PE), ethanolamine plasmalogens (EPs), phosphatidylserine (PS), phosphatidylcholine (PC), and sphingomyelin was studied in 22 human forebrains, ranging in age from 26 prenatal weeks to 8 postnatal years. Phospholipids were separated by two-dimensional TLC, and the fatty acid methyl esters studied by capillary column GLC. Docosahexaenoic acid (22:6n-3) increased with age in PE and PC, whereas arachidonic acid (20:4n-6) remained quite constant. In EP, 22:6n-3 increased less markedly than 20:4n-6, adrenic (22:4n-6) and oleic (18:1n-9) acids being the predominant fatty acids during postnatal age. In PS, 18:1n-9 increased dramatically throughout development, and 20:4n-6 and 22:4n-6 increased only until ∼6 months of age. Although 22:6n-3 kept quite constant during development in PS, its percentage decreased due to the accretion of other polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). As a characteristic myelin lipid, sphingomyelin was mainly constituted by very long chain saturated and monounsaturated fatty acids. Among them, nervonic acid (24:1n-9) was the major very long chain fatty acid in Sp, followed by 24:0, 26:1n-9, and 26:0, and its accretion after birth was dramatic. As myelination advanced, 18:1n-9 increased markedly in all four glycerophospholipids, predominating in EP, PS, and PC. In contrast, 22:6n-3 was the most important PUFA in PE in the mature forebrain.

Abbreviations used: AA, arachidonic acid; DHA, docosahexaenoic acid; EP, ethanolamine plasmalogen; FAME, fatty acid methyl ester; GPL, glycerophospholipid; PC, phosphatidylcholine; PE, phosphatidylethanolamine; PS, phosphatidylserine; PUFA, polyunsaturated fatty acid; Sp, sphingomyelin.