Metabolic labeling and direct imaging of choline-containing phospholipids in vivo

A functional analog of a metabolic phospholipid precursor has been devised that, when contacted with cells, becomes incorporated into a cells endogenous phospholipids through cellular metabolic processes. The resulting phospholipids contain a moiety that can then be detected and visualized in the cells with a compound bearing a detectable label. The resulting labeled phospholipid can then be visualized via optical or electron microscopy.


Choline-containing phospholipids have important structural roles in membranes and play critical roles in cell signaling, either as signaling molecules in their own right or as precursors, through enzymatic hydrolysis, of lipid second messengers. These phospholipids are chemically diverse, including phosphatidylcholine, sphingomyelin, and ether phospholipids.

The cell biology around phospholipids is poorly understood. Progress in understanding the cell biology of choline phospholipids would be greatly aided by having the ability to metabolically label them and visualize via microscopy.

Intellectual Property Status: Patent(s) Pending