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Physiol Rev. 2010 Jan;90(1):367-417. doi: 10.1152/physrev.00003.2009.

Membrane fatty acid transporters as regulators of lipid metabolism: implications for metabolic disease.

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Cardiovascular Research Institute Maastricht (CARIM), Maastricht University, NL-6200 MD Maastricht, The Netherlands.


Long-chain fatty acids and lipids serve a wide variety of functions in mammalian homeostasis, particularly in the formation and dynamic properties of biological membranes and as fuels for energy production in tissues such as heart and skeletal muscle. On the other hand, long-chain fatty acid metabolites may exert toxic effects on cellular functions and cause cell injury. Therefore, fatty acid uptake into the cell and intracellular handling need to be carefully controlled. In the last few years, our knowledge of the regulation of cellular fatty acid uptake has dramatically increased. Notably, fatty acid uptake was found to occur by a mechanism that resembles that of cellular glucose uptake. Thus, following an acute stimulus, particularly insulin or muscle contraction, specific fatty acid transporters translocate from intracellular stores to the plasma membrane to facilitate fatty acid uptake, just as these same stimuli recruit glucose transporters to increase glucose uptake. This regulatory mechanism is important to clear lipids from the circulation postprandially and to rapidly facilitate substrate provision when the metabolic demands of heart and muscle are increased by contractile activity. Studies in both humans and animal models have implicated fatty acid transporters in the pathogenesis of diseases such as the progression of obesity to insulin resistance and type 2 diabetes. As a result, membrane fatty acid transporters are now being regarded as a promising therapeutic target to redirect lipid fluxes in the body in an organ-specific fashion.

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