Crystal structure of human serum albumin complexed with fatty acid reveals an asymmetric distribution of binding sites

Nat Struct Biol. 1998 Sep;5(9):827-35. doi: 10.1038/1869.


Human serum albumin (HSA) is the most abundant protein in the circulatory system. Its principal function is to transport fatty acids, but it is also capable of binding a great variety of metabolites and drugs. Despite intensive efforts, the detailed structural basis of fatty acid binding to HSA has remained elusive. We have now determined the crystal structure of HSA complexed with five molecules of myristate at 2.5 A resolution. The fatty acid molecules bind in long, hydrophobic pockets capped by polar side chains, many of which are basic. These pockets are distributed asymmetrically throughout the HSA molecule, despite its symmetrical repeating domain structure.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study

MeSH terms

  • Amino Acid Sequence
  • Binding Sites / genetics
  • Crystallography, X-Ray
  • Fatty Acids / chemistry
  • Fatty Acids / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Ligands
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Models, Molecular
  • Molecular Sequence Data
  • Myristic Acid / chemistry*
  • Myristic Acid / metabolism*
  • Protein Conformation
  • Recombinant Proteins / chemistry
  • Recombinant Proteins / genetics
  • Recombinant Proteins / metabolism
  • Serum Albumin / chemistry*
  • Serum Albumin / genetics
  • Serum Albumin / metabolism*


  • Fatty Acids
  • Ligands
  • Macromolecular Substances
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Serum Albumin
  • Myristic Acid

Associated data

  • PDB/1BJ5
  • PDB/1BKE