New insights into the molecular mechanism of intestinal fatty acid absorption

Tony Y. Wang, Min Liu, Piero Portincasa, David Q.H. Wang

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

176 Scopus citations


Background: Dietary fat is one of the most important energy sources of all the nutrients. Fatty acids, stored as triacylglycerols (also called triglycerides) in the body, are an important reservoir of stored energy and derived primarily from animal fats and vegetable oils. Design: Although the molecular mechanisms for the transport of water-insoluble amphipathic fatty acids across cell membranes have been debated for many years, it is now believed that the dominant means for intestinal fatty acid uptake is via membrane-associated fatty acid-binding proteins, that is, fatty acid transporters on the apical membrane of enterocytes. Results: These findings indicate that intestinal fatty acid absorption is a multistep process that is regulated by multiple genes at the enterocyte level, and intestinal fatty acid absorption efficiency could be determined by factors influencing intraluminal fatty acid molecules across the brush border membrane of enterocytes. To facilitate research on intestinal, hepatic and plasma triacylglycerol metabolism, it is imperative to establish standard protocols for precisely and accurately measuring the efficiency of intestinal fatty acid absorption in humans and animal models. In this review, we will discuss the chemical structure and nomenclature of fatty acids and summarize recent progress in investigating the molecular mechanisms underlying the intestinal absorption of fatty acids, with a particular emphasis on the physical chemistry of intestinal lipids and the molecular physiology of intestinal fatty acid transporters. Conclusions: A better understanding of the molecular mechanism of intestinal fatty acid absorption should lead to novel approaches to the treatment and the prevention of fatty acid-related metabolic diseases that are prevalent worldwide.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1203-1223
Number of pages21
JournalEuropean Journal of Clinical Investigation
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2013
Externally publishedYes


  • Bile acids
  • Cholesterol absorption
  • Chylomicrons
  • Hypolipidaemic drugs
  • Intestinal fatty acid transporter
  • Pancreatic lipase

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biochemistry
  • Clinical Biochemistry


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