Fatty acid uptake and metabolism in a human intestinal cell line (Caco-2): Comparison of apical and basolateral incubation

P. J. Trotter, Judith Storch

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90 Scopus citations


Free fatty acids can enter the enterocyte via the apical or basolateral plasma membrane. We have used the Caco-2 intestinal cell line to examine the polarity of free fatty acid uptake and metabolism in the enterocyte. Differentiated Caco-2 cells form polarized monolayers with tight junctions, and express the small intestine-specific enzymes sucrase and alkaline phosphatase. Cells were grown on permeable polycarbonate Transwell filters, thus allowing separate access to the apical and basolateral compartments. Total uptake of [3H]palmitate bound to bovine serum albumin (palmitate-BSA 4:1) was twofold higher (P < 0.05 or less) at the apical surface than at the basolateral surface. The relative apical and basolateral membrane surface areas of the Caco-2 cells, as measured by partition of the fluorophore trimethylammonium-diphenylhexatriene (TMA-DPH), was found to be 1:3. Thus, apical fatty acid uptake was sixfold higher than basolateral uptake per unit surface area. Analysis of metabolites after incubation with submicellar concentrations of [3H]palmitate showed that the triacylglycerol to phospholipid (TG:PL) ratio was higher for fatty acid added to the apical as compared to the basolateral compartment (20% at 60 min, P < 0.025). Little fatty acid oxidation was observed. Preincubation with albumin-bound palmitate, alone or with monoolein, increased the incorporation of both apical and basolateral free fatty acids into TG. The results suggest that the net uptake of long-chain free fatty acids across the apical plasma membrane is greater than uptake across the basolateral membrane. In addition, a small increase in the TG:PL ratio for apically, compared to basolaterally, added free fatty acids suggests that polarity of metabolism occurs to a limited extent in Caco-2 enterocytes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)293-304
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of lipid research
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 1991
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Biochemistry
  • Endocrinology
  • Cell Biology

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