Long-chain fatty acids can transfer passively across mammalian cell membranes. However, under physiological conditions of low fatty acid to albumin ratios in the circulation, the major fraction of uptake appears to be mediated by a saturable, protein-facilitated component. A simple diffusion process becomes significant at high molar ratios of fatty acid to albumin as the concentration of free fatty acid in solution is increased. Identification of the mammalian membrane fatty acid transporter(s) has been the focus of active investigation by several research groups. In this review we discuss three candidate proteins: FABPm, FAT/CD36 and FATP which have been cloned and are currently being characterized. Recent evidence arguing for an important role of the fatty acid transport step in general metabolism and linking these proteins to physiologic or metabolic abnormalities is described.