Possible involvement of fatty acid binding proteins in psychiatric disorders

Anat Sci Int. 2021 Jun;96(3):333-342. doi: 10.1007/s12565-020-00598-0. Epub 2021 Feb 18.


Polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) are essential for brain development and function. Increasing evidence has shown that an imbalance of PUFAs is associated with various human psychiatric disorders, including autism and schizophrenia. However, the mechanisms underlying the effects of PUFAs on brain functions at cellular and molecular levels remain unclear. Since PUFAs are insoluble in water, specific transporters are required to deliver PUFAs to appropriate intracellular compartments. Fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs), the cellular chaperones of PUFAs, are involved in PUFA intracellular trafficking, signal transduction, and gene transcription. Therefore, we focused on the relationship between FABP-regulated PUFA homeostasis in the brain and neuronal plasticity. The authors previously reported that FABP3, which preferentially binds to n-6 PUFAs, is strongly expressed in the gamma-aminobutyric acid (GABAergic) inhibitory interneurons of the adult mouse anterior cingulate cortex (ACC), which is a component of the limbic cortex and is important for the coordination of cognitive and emotional behaviors. Interestingly, Fabp3 KO mice show increased GABA synthesis and abnormal excitatory/inhibitory balance in the ACC. In addition, studies have indicated that FABP7, which preferentially binds to n-3 PUFAs, controls lipid raft function in astrocytes, and astrocytic Fabp7 deficiency results in an altered response of astrocytes to external stimuli. Furthermore, Fabp7 KO mice exhibit aberrant dendritic morphology, and decreased spine density and excitatory synaptic transmission in pyramidal neurons. This review summarizes relationship between PUFAs or FABPs and human psychiatric disorders and discusses recent progress in elucidating the function of FABPs, especially FABP3 and 7, in the brain.

Keywords: Excitatory synapse; Fatty acid-binding proteins; Inhibitory synapse; Polyunsaturated fatty acids.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Brain / metabolism*
  • Fatty Acid Binding Protein 3 / genetics
  • Fatty Acid Binding Protein 3 / metabolism
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / genetics
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Mental Disorders / genetics
  • Mental Disorders / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout


  • Fabp3 protein, mouse
  • Fatty Acid Binding Protein 3
  • Fatty Acid-Binding Proteins