Abstract: Although structural aspects of cytosolic fatty acid binding proteins (FABPs) in mammalian tissues are now well understood, significant advances regarding the physiological function(s) of these proteins have been slow in forthcoming. Part of the difficulty lies in the complexity of the multigene FABP family with nearly twenty identified members. Furthermore, isoelectric focusing and ion exchange chromatography operationally resolve many of the mammalian native FABPs into putative isoforms. However, a more classical biochemical definition of an isoform, i.e. proteins differing by a single amino acid, suggests that the operational definition is too broad. Because at least one putative heart H-FABP isoform, the mammary derived growth inhibitor, was an artifact (Specht et al. (1996) J. Biol. Chem. 271: 1943-49), the ensuing skepticism and confusion cast doubt on the existence of FABP isoforms in general. Yet, increasing data suggest that several FABPs, e.g. human intestinal I-FABP, bovine and mouse heart H-FABP, rabbit myelin P2 protein and bovine liver L-FABP may exist as true isoforms. In contrast, the rat liver L-FABP putative isoforms may actually be due either to bound ligand, post-translational S-thiolation and/or structural conformers. In any case, almost nothing is known regarding possible functions of either the true or putative isoforms in vitro or in vivo. The objective of this article is to critically evaluate which FABPs form biochemically defined or true isoforms versus FABPs that form additional forms, operationally defined as isoforms. In addition, recent developments in the molecular basis for FABP true isoform formation, the processes leading to additional operationally defined putative isoforms and insights into potential function(s) of this unusual aspect of FABP heterogeneity will be examined.