Dietary fatty acids (FAs) crossing the apical plasma membrane of small intestinal enterocytes are targeted to different metabolic pathways than serum FAs crossing the basolateral membrane. This apparent compartmentalization of FA metabolism in enterocytes was further investigated using a model human enterocyte-like intestinal cell line. [3H]Oleic acid bound to bovine serum albumin (BSA) was added to the apical or basolateral surfaces of confluent monolayers of Caco-2 cells growing on uncoated polycarbonate filters. In other experiments, [3H]oleic acid incorporated into micelles with taurocholate (± 2-monoacylglycerol) was added apically. Caco-2 cells absorbed oleic acid bound to BSA from both the apical and basolateral surfaces at the same rate. Oleic acid in micellar solution was absorbed more efficiently than oleic acid bound to BSA. Regardless of its site or mode of presentation, the majority of the incorporated oleic acid was found in triglycerides. Only a small fraction was subjected to β-oxidation or esterification into phospholipids. Most of the incorporated oleic acid was still retained intracellularly at 24 h. The polarity of triglyceride secretion was influenced by the experimental conditions. Triglyceride secretion was not significantly polarized when oleic acid-BSA was presented apically. However, the ratio of basolateral to apical secretion at 24 h was 9:1 for oleic acid-BSA presented basolaterally. For oleic acid in taurocholate micelles there was a trend toward polarity of secretion to the apical media (apical to basolateral ratio = 2:1). The inclusion of 2- monoacylglycerol in oleic acid-taurocholate micelles did not augment triglyceride synthesis or secretion. These differences indicate that compartmentation of FA metabolism in Caco-2 cells is influenced by the site of FA presentation. Northern and Western blot hybridization studies indicated that the liver fatty acid-binding protein but not the intestinal fatty acid- binding protein gene is expressed in these cells. The absence of this latter 15 kDa protein indicates that it is not required by Caco-2 cells for the synthesis of triglycerides or for the polarized export of triglyceride. These studies indicate that the Caco-2 cell line will be a useful model system for studying the polarization of FA trafficking/metabolism in enterocytes and defining the role of intracellular fatty acid binding proteins in these processes.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)9-19
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number1
StatePublished - 1992


  • enterocytes
  • fatty acid metabolism
  • macromolecular trafficking
  • metabolic regulation

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