Fatty acid metabolism was investigated in adult male albino rats exposed to hypobaric hypoxia at 25,000 ft simulated altitude for 6 h at 32 degrees C. Oxidation and esterification of palmitic acid-1-14C and de novo lipogenesis from acetate-1-14C were studied. Palmitic acid-1-14C oxidation in liver slices was normal while acetoacetate formation was increased. In vivo esterification of palmitic acid-1-14C to form triglycerides was increased while formation of phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylethanolamine was observed to decrease. Decreased incorporation into plasma phosphatidylcholine with unaltered total activity in plasma triglycerides was observed. The incorporation of acetate-1-14C was observed to remain unaltered in triglycerides and phospholipids of liver with a similar pattern in the plasma indicating unaltered de novo lipogenesis. There appears to be increased esterification of fatty acids with probably impaired release of triglycerides into plasma while fatty acid biosynthesis remains unaffected.