Fatty acid-binding proteins as plasma markers of tissue injury

Clin Chim Acta. 2005 Feb;352(1-2):15-35. doi: 10.1016/j.cccn.2004.09.001.


Background: One of the novel and promising plasma markers for detection of tissue injury is the family of 15 kDa cytoplasmic fatty acid-binding proteins of which various tissue-specific types occur.

Aims and objectives: The present status of heart-type fatty acid-binding protein (H-FABP) as a diagnostic and prognostic marker for acute and chronic cardiac injury, as well as the preliminary diagnostic use of other types of FABP for detecting injury in other organs, is reviewed.

Methods: This review is based on an overview of the literature on clinical diagnostics of various forms of organ injury, and uses additional literature on physiological aspects relevant for the interpretation of plasma marker concentrations.

Results: H-FABP not only proves to be an excellent early marker for cardiac injury in acute coronary syndromes, but also allows detection of minor myocardial injury in heart failure and unstable angina. Preliminary results indicate that sensitivity, rule-out power and prognostic value of H-FABP in cardiac injury surpass the performance of the standard early marker myoglobin. The liver only contains liver-type FABP (L-FABP), but co-expression of H-FABP and L-FABP occurs in the kidney. Similarly, intestinal-type FABP (I-FABP) and L-FABP are found in intestines, and brain-type FABP (B-FABP) and H-FABP occur in the brain. Preliminary but promising applications of these proteins have been demonstrated for liver rejection, viability selection of kidneys from non-heart-beating donors (NHBD), inflammatory and ischemic bowel disease, traumatic brain injury and in the prevention of muscle injury in trained athletes.

Conclusions: Further study of the diagnostic and prognostic use of various FABP types is warranted, but their clinical application will require further commercialization of automated and rapid assays.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Carrier Proteins / blood*
  • Fatty Acid Binding Protein 3
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins
  • Humans
  • Organ Specificity / physiology
  • Wounds and Injuries / blood*
  • Wounds and Injuries / pathology*


  • Biomarkers
  • Carrier Proteins
  • FABP1 protein, human
  • FABP3 protein, human
  • Fatty Acid Binding Protein 3
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins