G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) are the most versatile receptor family as they have the ability to respond to chemically diverse ligands. Despite intensive efforts during the past two decades, there are still more than 100 orphan GPCRs for which endogenous ligands are unknown. Recently, GPR109A, GPR109B and GPR81, which form a GPCR subfamily, have been deorphanized. The physiological ligands of these receptors are the ketone body 3-hydroxy-butyrate, the metabolite 2-hydroxy-propanoate (lactate) as well as the beta-oxidation intermediate 3-hydroxy-octanoate. Thus, this receptor subfamily is activated by hydroxy-carboxylic acid ligands which are intermediates of energy metabolism. All three receptors are predominantly expressed in adipocytes and mediate antilipolytic effects. In this article, we propose that the hydroxy-carboxylic acid structure of their endogenous ligands is the defining property of this receptor subfamily and that hydroxy-carboxylic acid receptors function as metabolic sensors which fine-tune the regulation of metabolic pathways.