The molecular mechanisms involved in intestinal absorption of dietary fatty acid are incompletely understood. Diffusion and protein mediated mechanisms appear to coexist although the role each component plays in the process remains to be defined. This review presents a summary of most recent evidence related to protein mediated fatty acid absorption by the small intestine. Our current understanding indicates that proximal versus distal intestinal segments play different roles in the absorptive process reflecting differential expression of transporters. Recent findings related to the fatty acid translocase CD36, which is most abundant proximally, support its role in coordinating proximal absorption of fatty acid and cholesterol for optimal chylomicron formation and secretion. Less supportive evidence is available related to other proteins implicated in intestinal fatty acid absorption. However, a brief overview is presented of recent work on the respective roles of intestinal SR-B1 and fatty acid transport protein 4 (FATP4). Intestinal fatty acid and cholesterol transporters represent potentially important and accessible targets for the management of hyperlipidemia by reducing absorption of dietary lipid. In the case of CD36, the relatively high frequency of polymorpshisms in the gene and the high incidence of CD36 deficiency in some populations suggest that it may contribute to individual variations in lipid absorption and processing. Its role in the absorption of both fatty acid and cholesterol make it a especially attractive drug target.
Keywords: CD36, Intestinal Fatty Acid, Absorption, intestinal SR-B1, hyperlipidemia
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