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Keywords:

  • β cell function;
  • free fatty acids (FFA);
  • G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs);
  • lipotoxicity;
  • small-molecule agonists and antagonists

Abstract

G-protein-coupled receptors (GPCRs) respond to various physiological ligands such as photons, ions, and small molecules that include amines, fatty acids, and amino acids to peptides, proteins and steroids. Therefore, this family of proteins represents an attractive target for biopharmaceutical research [1]. The physiological role of fatty acids and other lipid molecules as important signal mediators is well studied in various metabolic pathways [2]. Acute administration of free fatty acids (FFAs) stimulates insulin release. Conversely, chronic exposure to high levels of free fatty acids leads to impairment of β cell function and lipotoxicity. However, the receptors through which these fatty acids and lipids act were unknown, until the identification of fatty acid binding receptors: GPR40, GPR41, GPR43, and GPR119. Based on their tissue-expression profile, and pharmacologic analysis, the fatty acid binding receptors along with lipid binding receptor GPR119 are linked to diabetes and obesity. They play a critical role in the metabolic regulation of insulin release and glucose homeostasis. In this review, the mechanism of receptor activation, pharmacology, and the physiological functions of the fatty acid binding receptors will be discussed.