Abstract The role of free fatty acids (FFA) in the pathogenesis of fatty liver was investigated in female rats who received a single ip injection of d-galactosamine-HCl, (GalN), 750 mg/kg body weight. Groups of rats were either fasted for 14 hr prior to GalN injection and then fasted for the duration of the experiment or were fed ad libitum prior to and after GalN administration. Plasma FFA were determined in groups of fasting or fed rats sacrificed at intervals between 0 and 24 hr after GalN administration. The results revealed a progressive increase in plasma FFA in GalN-injected fasted rats (0 hr, 0.40 μmol/ml; 24 hr, 1.09 μmol/ml) whereas in fed animals only a modest increase in plasma FFA concentrations occurred. Hepatic triglyceride content was determined in groups of fasted and fed rats at 6 and 24 hr after GalN administration. Hepatic triglycerides, in fasted rats, were increased 7-fold at 6 hr (22.4 ± 8.5 mg/g) and were markedly increased at 24 hr (114.8 ± 18.4 mg/g). In contrast, feeding protected the rats from the development of fatty liver since hepatic triglycerides were only twice controls at 6 hr and 4-fold increased 24 hr after GalN. Ultrastructural studies were performed at 15, 24, and 48 hr after GalN in fed and fasted rats. Electron microscopy disclosed hepatocellular necrosis and profound fat accumulation in the fasted animals; however, feeding afforded marked protection against the development of fatty liver and hepatic injury. The results of these studies indicate that the GalN-induced fatty liver is associated with a sustained elevation of plasma FFA. The increase in plasma FFA can be prevented by feeding the animals prior to and after GalN administration suggesting that a stimulus for FFA elevation may be the alterations in carbohydrate metabolism known to be induced by GalN in rat liver.