The emerging functions and mechanisms of mammalian fatty acid-binding proteins

Annu Rev Nutr. 2008;28:73-95. doi: 10.1146/annurev.nutr.27.061406.093710.


Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) are abundant intracellular proteins that bind long-chain fatty acids with high affinity. Nine separate mammalian FABPs have been identified, and their tertiary structures are highly conserved. The FABPs have unique tissue-specific distributions that have long suggested functional differences among them. In the last decade, considerable progress has been made in understanding the specific functions of the FABPs and, in some cases, their mechanisms of action at the molecular level. The FABPs appear to be involved in the extranuclear compartments of the cell by trafficking their ligands within the cytosol via interactions with organelle membranes and specific proteins. Several members of the FABP family have been shown to function directly in the regulation of cognate nuclear transcription factor activity via ligand-dependent translocation to the nucleus. This review will focus on these emerging functions and mechanisms of the FABPs, highlighting the unique functional properties of each as well as the similarities among them.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Biological Transport
  • Brain / metabolism
  • Carrier Proteins / metabolism
  • Cell Membrane / metabolism
  • Cytoplasm / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / physiology*
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Intestinal Absorption / physiology
  • Intestinal Mucosa / metabolism
  • Liver / metabolism
  • Mice
  • Organ Specificity


  • Carrier Proteins
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins
  • Fatty Acids