Fatty acid-binding protein (FABP) was isolated, purified, and characterized from developing human fetal lung cytosol by gel filtration and ion-exchange chromatography. FABP exists in three immunochemically identical forms, DE-I, DE-II, and DE-III, having Mr 15,200 ± 200 each and isoelectric pH 7.8, 6.9, and 5.4, respectively. DE-I is almost lipid-free, DE-II binds mainly long-chain unsaturated fatty acids, and DE-III is an arachi-donic acid carrier. One mole of DE-II and DE-III each binds 1 mol of fatty acids noncov-alently. Concentrations of all these FABPs increase gradually from early gestation to term. Defatted lung FABP reverses the inhibitory effect of palmitoyl coenzyme A (CoA) (PAL-CoA) on lung glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G6PD), a key enzyme of the hexose monophosphate (HMP) shunt pathway. This protein when added alone activates the enzyme, suggesting that the original submaximal activity is probably due to the presence of endogenous long-chain fatty acyl CoA esters in the cytosols. As FABP is present in relatively high concentration in most mammalian cells, the potent inhibitory effects of long-chain acyl CoA esters on the HMP shunt pathway in vitro are not seen in intact cells. © 1989 Informa UK Ltd All rights reserved: reproduction in whole or part not permitted.