Role of fatty acids in signal transduction: modulators and messengers

Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 1993 Jan;48(1):117-22. doi: 10.1016/0952-3278(93)90019-s.


Many of the steps involved in signal transduction are regulated positively or negatively by fatty acids (FA) per se. FA have been shown to act both as modulators and messengers, particularly of signals triggered at the level of cell membranes. Enzymes and proteins of the cyclic AMP and the protein kinase C signalling pathways and those involving ion fluxes and mobilization are both activated and/or inhibited by FA. FA can also participate in a feedback control mechanism since phospholipases are themselves modulated by FA. FA, particularly arachidonic acid liberated from membrane phospholipids, are also second messengers in signal transduction, and a good example is the activation of protein kinase C by FA. FA play an important role in regulating the transmission of signals from the extracellular environment by acting as modulators and messengers within the complex intracellular network of relays.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Arachidonic Acid / physiology
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Diglycerides / metabolism
  • Fatty Acids / physiology*
  • Feedback
  • Ion Channels / metabolism
  • Membrane Lipids / metabolism
  • Models, Biological
  • Phospholipases / metabolism
  • Phosphorylation
  • Protein Kinases / metabolism
  • Protein Processing, Post-Translational
  • Signal Transduction*


  • Diglycerides
  • Fatty Acids
  • Ion Channels
  • Membrane Lipids
  • Arachidonic Acid
  • Protein Kinases
  • Phospholipases