The liver plays a unique, central role in regulating lipid metabolism. In addition to influencing hepatic function and disease, changes in specific pathways of fatty acid (FA) metabolism have wide-ranging effects on the metabolism of other nutrients, extra-hepatic physiology, and the development of metabolic diseases. The high prevalence of nonalcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) has led to increased efforts to characterize the underlying biology of hepatic energy metabolism and FA trafficking that leads to disease development. Recent advances have uncovered novel roles of metabolic pathways and specific enzymes in generating lipids important for cellular processes such as signal transduction and transcriptional activation. These studies have also advanced our understanding of key branch points involving FA partitioning between metabolic pathways and have identified new roles for lipid droplets in these events. This review covers recent advances in our understanding of FA trafficking and its regulation. An emphasis will be placed on branch points in these pathways and how alterations in FA trafficking contribute to NAFLD and related comorbidities.
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© 2013 American Society for Nutrition.