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J Mol Biol. 2000 Nov 10;303(5):721-32.

Crystallographic analysis reveals common modes of binding of medium and long-chain fatty acids to human serum albumin.

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Biophysics Section, Blackett Laboratory, Imperial College of Science, Technology and Medicine, London, UK.


Human serum albumin (HSA) is an abundant plasma protein that is responsible for the transport of fatty acids. HSA also binds and perturbs the pharmacokinetics of a wide range of drug compounds. Binding studies have revealed significant interactions between fatty acid and drug-binding sites on albumin but high-resolution structural information on ligand binding to the protein has been lacking. We report here a crystallographic study of five HSA-fatty acid complexes formed using saturated medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids (C10:0, C12:0, C14:0, C16:0 and C18:0). A total of seven binding sites that are occupied by all medium-chain and long-chain fatty acids have been identified, although medium-chain fatty acids are found to bind at additional sites on the protein, yielding a total of 11 distinct binding locations. Comparison of the different complexes reveals key similarities and significant differences in the modes of binding, and serves to rationalise much of the biochemical data on fatty acid interactions with albumin. The two principal drug-binding sites, in sub-domains IIA and IIIA, are observed to be occupied by fatty acids and one of them (in IIIA) appears to coincide with a high-affinity long-chain fatty acid binding site.

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