S. Maric, M.B. Thygesen, J. Schiller, M. Marek, M. Moulin, M. Haertlein, T.V. Forsyth, M. Bogdanov, W. Dowhan, L. Arleth, T. Günther Pomorski (2015).
Biosynthetic preparation of selectively deuterated phosphatidylcholine in genetically modified Escherichia coli.
Applied Microbiology and Biotechnology 99(1): 241–254.
doi: 10.1007/s00253-014-6082-z

Phosphatidylcholine (PC) is a major component of eukaryotic cell membranes and one of the most commonly used phospholipids for reconstitution of membrane proteins into carrier systems such as lipid vesicles, micelles and nanodiscs. Selectively deuterated versions of this lipid have many applications, especially in structural studies using techniques such as NMR, neutron reflectivity and small-angle neutron scattering. Here we present a comprehensive study of selective deuteration of phosphatidylcholine through biosynthesis in a genetically modified strain of Escherichia coli. By carefully tuning the deuteration level in E. coli growth media and varying the deuteration of supplemented carbon sources, we show that it is possible to achieve a controlled deuteration for three distinct parts of the PC lipid molecule, namely the (a) lipid head group, (b) glycerol backbone and (c) fatty acyl tail. This biosynthetic approach paves the way for the synthesis of specifically deuterated, physiologically relevant phospholipid species which remain difficult to obtain through standard chemical synthesis.