Stearoyl-CoA desaturase (SCD) (EC 18.104.22.168) is an endoplasmic reticulum-bound enzyme that catalyzes the delta9-cis desaturation of saturated fatty acyl-CoAs, the preferred substrates being palmitoyl- and stearoyl-CoA, which are converted to palmitoleoyl- and oleoyl-CoA, respectively. These monounsaturated fatty acids are used as substrates for the synthesis of triglycerides, wax esters, cholesteryl esters and membrane phospholipids. The saturated to monounsaturated fatty acid ratio affects membrane phospholipid composition and alteration in this ratio has been implicated in a variety of disease states including cardiovascular disease, obesity, diabetes, neurological disease, skin disorders and cancer. Thus, the expression of SCD is of physiological importance in normal and disease states. Several mammalian SCD genes have been cloned. A single human, three mouse and two rat are the best characterized SCD genes. The physiological role of each SCD isoform and the reason for having three or more SCD gene isoforms in the rodent genome are currently unknown. A clue as to the physiological role of the SCD, at least SCD1 gene and its endogenous products came from recent studies of asebia mouse strains that have a natural mutation in the SCD1 gene and a mouse model with a targeted disruption of the SCD1 gene. In this review we discuss our current understanding of the physiological role of SCD in lipid synthesis and metabolism.