Cells acquire and make lipids for use in metabolism, signaling and structure. Lipid metabolism refers to the balance between lipid production, storage and use. A cell constantly senses cues from its environment and adapts by rebalancing its metabolic pathways. These changes require information to be conducted to many different parts of the cell in a coordinated manner; often using lipids as signaling molecules to convey this information. Lipids also play an important role in cellular structure, as a major component of cell membranes. Lipid synthesis provides a means of energy storage while lipid breakdown results in energy production.
A basic building block of lipids is the fatty acid, palmitate. Palmitate can have many different uses in the cell. Many tumor and virally infected cells need to synthesize palmitate via FASN in order to make membranes, to generate large amounts of energy, and to produce the specialized lipids required to conduct signals throughout the cell, thereby enabling rapid adaptation to environmental changes. FASN is an enzyme and is the sole source of palmitate synthesis in the cell.