Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) belong to the conserved multigene family of the intracellular lipid-binding proteins (iLBPs). These proteins are ubiquitously expressed in vertebrate tissues, with distinct expression patterns for the individual FABPs. Various functions have been proposed for these proteins, including the promotion of cellular uptake and transport of fatty acids, the targeting of fatty acids to specific metabolic pathways, and the participation in the regulation of gene expression and cell growth. Novel genetic tools that have become available in recent years, such as transgenic cell lines, animals, and knock-out mice, have provided the opportunity to test these concepts in physiological settings. Such studies have helped to define essential cellular functions of individual FABP-types or of combinations of several different FABPs. The deletion of particular FABP genes, however, has not led to gross phenotypical changes, most likely because of compensatory overexpression of other members of the iLBP gene family, or even of unrelated fatty acid transport proteins. This review summarizes the properties of the various FABPs expressed in mammalian tissues, and discusses the transgenic and ablation studies carried out to date in a functional context.