Albumin as fatty acid transporter

Drug Metab Pharmacokinet. 2009;24(4):300-7. doi: 10.2133/dmpk.24.300.


Fatty acids play critical roles in mammalian energy metabolism. Moreover, they are important substrates for the synthesis of membrane phospholipids and biologically active compounds like eicosanoids and leukotrienes. Because of their low solubility in aqueous solutions such as blood plasma and interstitial fluid, fatty acids are in need of binding proteins to increase their concentration in vascular and interstitial compartments. Albumin acts as main fatty acid binding protein in extracellular fluids. Plasma albumin possesses about 7 binding sites for fatty acids with moderate to high affinity, enhancing the concentration of fatty acids by a several orders of magnitude. Despite the high affinity of albumin for fatty acids, uptake of fatty acids by parenchymal cells such as skeletal and cardiac myocytes seems not to be hampered by albumin. In contrast, experimental findings suggest that albumin may facilitate the uptake of fatty acids by organs in need of these substrates. In the present overview the following issues will be briefly discussed: (i) transport and storage of fatty acids in the mammalian body, (ii) biosynthesis of albumin in the liver, (iii) localization and concentration of albumin in body fluids, (iv) interactions between albumin and fatty acids, (v) albumin structure and fatty acid binding sites, (vi) uptake of fatty acids by organs and roles for plasma albumin and (vii) lessons from patients and experimental animals lacking plasma albumin.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Albumins / metabolism*
  • Animals
  • Biological Transport / physiology*
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Membrane Proteins / metabolism
  • Myocardium / metabolism*
  • Phospholipids / metabolism


  • Albumins
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins
  • Fatty Acids
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Phospholipids