Choline and Its Products Acetylcholine and Phosphatidylcholine

  • R. J. Wurtman
  • M. Cansev
  • I. H. Ulus
Reference work entry


Choline, a quaternary amine obtained largely from the diet but also synthesized in the brain and, especially, liver, is an essential precursor of the neurotransmitter acetylcholine (ACh) and of the major membrane constituent phosphatidylcholine (PC). Plasma choline concentrations can vary over a fivefold range depending on the choline contents of the foods being digested. Since choline readily crosses the blood–brain barrier (BBB) through an unsaturated facilitated-diffusion system, these plasma changes can produce parallel changes in brain choline levels. In addition, since the enzymes that convert choline to ACh [choline acetyltransferase (ChAT)] and PC's precursor phosphocholine [choline kinase (CK)] are also poorly saturated with their choline substrate, increases in plasma choline can enhance the formation of ACh and phosphocholine, and the release of ACh. The subsequent conversion of phosphocholine to PC is increased if PC's other circulating precursors (uridine and omega-3 fatty acids) are provided. This leads to an increase in the levels of synaptic membrane within the brain. Choline is principally metabolized in the liver to betaine, which provides a source of methyl groups for the regeneration of methionine and S-adenosylmethionine.

List of Abbreviations:






arachidonic acid






adrenocorticotropic hormone


adequate intake


DL-amino-3-hydroxy-5-methyl-isoxazole-4-propionic acid


amyloid precursor protein


blood-brain barrier




Ca+2/calmoduline kinase






choline acetyltransferase


high-affinity choline transporter


choline kinase




central nervous system


concentrative nucleoside transporter


choroid plexus


CDP-choline:1,2-diacylglycerol cholinephosphotransferase


CTP:phosphocholine cytidylyl transferase


choline-transporter-like protein






docosahexaenoic acid


extracellular fluid


equilibrative nucleoside transporter


eicosapentaenoic acid


CDP-choline:1,2-diacylglycerol ethanolaminephosphotransferase


flavine adenine dinucleotide


Food and Nutrition Board


growth hormone




Glycerophosphocholine cholinephosphodiesterase


glycerophosphocholine phosphodiesterase


generally regarded as safe




inositol triphosphate


luteotropic hormone


luteinizing hormone-releasing hormone


lyso-phosphatidylcohline acyltransferase


long-term potentiation


muscarinic acetylcholine receptor


mitogen-activated protein kinase


nicotinic acetylcholine receptor


nicotinamide adenine dinucleotide


nucleoside diphosphate kinase


nerve growth factor




organic cation transporter


platelet-activating factor












protein kinase


protein kinase A


phospholipase A1


phospholipase A2


phospholipase C


phospholipase D




polyunsaturated fatty acid


recommended daily allowance










thyrotropin-releasing hormone


thyroid-stimulating hormone


upper limit


uridine-cytidine kinase









The authors thank Dr. Jan Krzysztof Blustajn and Ms. Carol Watkins for the critical review of this chapter. Studies described in this chapter were supported in part by grants from the National Institutes of Mental Health (MH-28783); the NIH-NCRR (5-MO1RR01066–29); the Center for Brain Sciences and Metabolism Charitable Trust; and the Turkish Academy of Sciences (Ismail H. Ulus).


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© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2009

Authors and Affiliations

  • R. J. Wurtman
  • M. Cansev
  • I. H. Ulus

There are no affiliations available

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