Functions of fatty acid binding proteins
Cytosolic fatty acid binding proteins (FABP) belong to a gene family of which eight members have been conclusively identified. These 14–15 kDa proteins are abundantly expressed in a highly tissue-specific manner. Although the functions of the cytosolic FABP are not clearly established, they appear to enhance the transfer of long-chain fatty acids between artificial and native lipid membranes, and also to have a stimulatory effect on a number of enzymes of fatty acid metabolism in vitro. These findings, as well as the tissue expression, ligand binding properties, ontogeny and regulation of these proteins provide a considerable body of indirect evidence supporting a broad role for the FABP in the intracellular transport and metabolism of long-chain fatty acids. The available data also support the existence of structure- and tissue-specific specialization of function among different members of the FABP gene family. Moreover, FABP may also have a possible role in the modulation of cell growth and proliferation, possibly by virtue of their affinity for ligands such as prostaglandins, leukotrienes and fatty acids, which are known to influence cell growth activity. FABP structurally unrelated to the cytosolic gene family have also been identified in the plasma membranes of several tissues (FABPpm). These proteins have not been fully characterized to date, but strong evidence suggests that they function in the transport of long-chain fatty acids across the plasma membrane.