, Volume 57, Issue 10, pp 1360-1372

Cellular uptake of long-chain fatty acids: role of membrane-associated fatty-acid-binding/transport proteins

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The critical importance of long-chain fatty acids in cellular homeostasis demands an efficient uptake system for these fatty acids and their metabolism in tissues. Increasing evidence suggests that the plasma-membrane-associated and cytoplasmic fatty-acid-binding proteins are involved in cellular fatty acid uptake, transport and metabolism in tissues. These binding proteins may also function in the fine tuning of cellular events by modulating the metabolism of long-chain fatty acids implicated in the regulation of cell growth and various cellular functions. Several membrane-associated fatty-acid-binding/transport proteins such as plasma membrane fatty-acid-binding protein (FABPpm, 43 kDa), fatty acid translocase (FAT, 88 kDa) and fatty acid transporter protein (FATP, 63kDa) have been identified. In the feto-placental unit, preferential transport of maternal plasma arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids across the placenta is of critical importance for fetal growth and development. Our studies have shown that arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids are preferentially taken up by placental trophoblasts for fetal transport. The existence of a fatty-acid-transport system comprising multiple membrane-binding proteins (FAT, FATP and FABPpm) in human placenta may be essential to facilitate the preferential transport of maternal plasma fatty acids in order to meet the requirements of the growing fetus. The preferential uptake of arachidonic and docosahexaenoic acids by the human placenta has the net effect of shunting these maternal plasma fatty acids towards the fetus. The roles of plasma membrane-associated binding/transport proteins (FABPpm, FAT and FATP) in tissue-specific fatty acid uptake and metabolism are discussed.