Fatty acid transport across membranes: relevance to nutrition and metabolic pathology

Annu Rev Nutr. 2002;22:383-415. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.22.020402.130846. Epub 2002 Apr 4.


Long-chain fatty acids are an important constituent of the diet and they contribute to a multitude of cellular pathways and functions. Uptake of long-chain fatty acids across plasma membranes is the first step in fatty acid utilization, and recent evidence supports an important regulatory role for this process. Although uptake of fatty acids involves two components, passive diffusion through the lipid bilayer and protein-facilitated transfer, the latter component appears to play the major role in mediating uptake by key tissues. Identification of several proteins as fatty acid transporters, and emerging evidence from genetically altered animal models for some of these proteins, has contributed significant insight towards understanding the limiting role of transport in the regulation of fatty acid utilization. We are also beginning to better appreciate how disturbances in fatty acid utilization influence general metabolism and contribute to metabolic pathology.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Adipose Tissue / metabolism
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology
  • CD36 Antigens
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acids / pharmacokinetics
  • Humans
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / chemistry
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / metabolism
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / physiology*
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Membrane Transport Proteins / physiology
  • Models, Animal
  • Muscle, Skeletal / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism
  • Organic Anion Transporters / chemistry
  • Organic Anion Transporters / metabolism
  • Organic Anion Transporters / physiology*


  • CD36 Antigens
  • Fatty Acids
  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Membrane Transport Proteins
  • Organic Anion Transporters