Antitumor alkylphospholipids initiate apoptosis in transformed HL-60 and Jurkat cells while sparing their progenitors. 1-O-Alkyl-2-carboxymethyl-sn-glycero-3-phosphocholine (Edelfosine) like other short-chained phospholipids-inflammatory platelet-activating factor (PAF) and apoptotic oxidatively truncated phospholipids-are proposed to have intracellular sites of action, yet a conduit for these choline phospholipids into mammalian cells is undefined. Edelfosine is also accumulated by Saccharomyces cerevisiae in a process requiring the membrane protein Lem3p, and the human genome contains a Lem3p homolog TMEM30a. We show that import of choline phospholipids into S. cerevisiae DeltaLem3 is partially reconstituted by human TMEM30a and by Lem3p-TMEM30a chimeras, showing the proteins are orthologous. TMEM30a-GFP chimeras expressed in mammalian cells localized in plasma membranes, as well as internal organelles, and ectopic TMEM30a expression promoted uptake of exogenous choline and ethanolamine phospholipids. Short hairpin RNA knockdown of TMEM30a reduced fluorescent choline phospholipid and [(3)H]PAF import. This knockdown also reduced mitochondrial depolarization from exogenous Edelfosine or the mitotoxic oxidatively truncated phospholipid azelaoyl phosphatidylcholine, and the knockdown reduced apoptosis in response to these two phospholipids. These results show that extracellular choline phospholipids with short sn-2 residues can have intracellular roles and sites of metabolism because they are transport substrates for a TMEM30a phospholipid import system. Variation in this mechanism could limit sensitivity to short chain choline phospholipids such as Edelfosine, PAF, and proapoptotic phospholipids.
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