Betaine and inositol reduce MDCK cell glycerophosphocholine by stimulating its degradation

Eugene D. Kwon, Krzysztof Zablocki, Eugenia M. Peters, Kyu Yong Jung, Arlyn Garcia-Perez, Maurice B. Burg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


The amount of glycerophosphocholine (GPC) in renal medullary cells in vivo and in cultured renal [Madin-Darby canine kidney (MDCK)] cells varies with extracellular NaCl and urea. We previously showed that this is largely due to modulation of GPC degradation catalyzed by GPC:choline phosphodiesterase (GPC:PDE). GPC also varies inversely with the levels of other compatible osmolytes, the accumulation of which is induced by high tonicity. We tested whether GPC:PDE activity and GPC degradation are affected by accumulation of compatible osmolytes other than GPC. We find that MDCK cell GPC content decreases when the cells take up betaine and/or inositol from the medium. The effect is considerably greater for cells in isosmotic or high-NaCl medium than in high-urea medium. This difference is associated with suppression of betaine and inositol accumulation with high urea. We then measured GPC:PDE activity with a novel chemiluminescent assay. Addition of inositol and/or betaine to the medium greatly increases GPC:PDE activity in cells in isosmotic or high-NaCl media, but the increase is much less in high-urea medium. The increases in GPC:PDE activity, associated with the presence of betaine, are accompanied by commensurate increases in absolute rates of endogenous GPC degradation by cells in isosmotic or high-NaCl medium. We found previously that, in MDCK cells incubated for 2 days in high-NaCl medium, the rate of GPC synthesis from phosphatidylcholine is increased, correlated with an increase in phospholipase activity. However, in the present experiments, betaine accumulation has no effect on phospholipase activity under those conditions and, thus, presumably does not affect GPC synthesis. Collectively, these data support the conclusion that betaine and/or inositol reduces GPC by increasing GPC degradation catalyzed by GPC:PDE. This mechanism enables GPC to be reciprocally regulated relative to other compatible osmolytes, thus maintaining an appropriate total osmolyte content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)C200-C207
JournalAmerican Journal of Physiology - Cell Physiology
Issue number1 39-1
StatePublished - Jan 1996


  • compatible osmolytes
  • glycerophosphocholine:choline phosphodiesterase
  • hypertonicity
  • organic osmolytes
  • renal medulla
  • urea

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Physiology
  • Cell Biology


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