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Prostaglandins Leukot Essent Fatty Acids. 2007 Nov-Dec;77(5-6):355-61. Epub 2007 Nov 26.

New insights into the roles of proteins and lipids in membrane transport of fatty acids.

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Department of Physiology and Biophysics, Boston University School of Medicine, 715 Albany Street, Boston, MA 02118, USA.


Recent calculations of the apparent permeability coefficients for long-chain fatty acids (LCFA) in phospholipid bilayers provide a new perspective on their transport in a membrane. LCFA have permeabilities that are many orders of magnitude higher than glucose, amino acids, and ions. Transport of LCFA through membranes must therefore be considered to be much different from these nutrients, and there is no a priori requirement for catalysis by a membrane protein. New evidence indicates that the plasma membrane proteins postulated as catalysts for transporting LCFA into the cell fall into three categories. Some act as enzymes, mainly for the activation of LCFA to the acyl CoA, which is required for subsequent intracellular metabolism of LCFA. Other proteins appear to participate in sequestering and trafficking of LCFA. Finally, some proteins have undefined mechanisms. The established mechanisms are consistent with biophysical properties of LCFA in membranes, including fast free diffusion by "flip-flop" in the phospholipid bilayer.

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