Cytoplasmic fatty acid-binding proteins: emerging roles in metabolism and atherosclerosis

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Cytoplasmic fatty acid-binding proteins (FABPs) are a family of proteins, expressed in a tissue-specific manner, that bind fatty acid ligands and are involved in shuttling fatty acids to cellular compartments, modulating intracellular lipid metabolism, and regulating gene expression. Several members of the FABP family have been shown to have important roles in regulating metabolism and have links to the development of insulin resistance and the metabolic syndrome. Recent studies demonstrate a role for intestinal FABP in the control of dietary fatty acid absorption and chylomicron secretion. Heart FABP is essential for normal myocardial fatty acid oxidation and modulates fatty acid uptake in skeletal muscle. Liver FABP is directly involved in fatty acid ligand signaling to the nucleus and interacts with peroxisome proliferator-activated receptors in hepatocytes. The adipocyte FABP (aP2) has been shown to affect insulin sensitivity, lipid metabolism and lipolysis, and has recently been shown to play an important role in atherosclerosis. Interestingly, expression of aP2 by the macrophage promotes atherogenesis, thus providing a link between insulin resistance, intracellular fatty acid disposition, and foam cell formation. The FABPs are promising targets for the treatment of dyslipidemia, insulin resistance, and atherosclerosis in humans.

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