Liver fatty acid-binding protein (L-FABP) and acyl-CoA-binding protein (ACBP) are involved in the intracellular trafficking and compartmentalization of fatty acids and fatty acyl-CoA esters, respectively, in the liver. Both proteins are induced in rat liver by the potent peroxisome proliferator perfluorodecanoic acid (PFDA). While it is believed that the peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor may mediate the responses to peroxisome proliferators by inducing responsive genes, the ligand(s) of this receptor remains unknown. We hypothesized that induction of L-FABP and ACBP in rat liver by PFDA is secondary to accumulation of long-chain acyl-CoA esters. However, neither dose-response nor time-course effects of PFDA on hepatic long-chain acyl-CoA, L-FABP, or ACBP concentrations confirmed this hypothesis. In a dose-response study, PFDA increased hepatic long-chain acyl-CoA concentrations (7 days after treatment) over the dose range of 20-50 mg/kg, whereas it increased ACBP and L-FABP over the wider dose range of 20-65 mg/kg. In the time-course study, PFDA treatment (50 mg/kg) elevated long-chain acyl-CoA esters in the liver beginning on day 3 post-treatment, yet hepatic L-FABP concentrations were increased earlier beginning on day 2 and ACBP was not induced until day 7. To determine if this dissociation of increases in hepatic long-chain acyl-CoA concentrations from increases in hepatic L-FABP and ACBP concentrations could be demonstrated under other conditions, control rats fasted for 24-48 hr were used. Fasting increased hepatic long-chain acyl-CoA levels to a greater extent than PFDA treatment, yet neither L-FABP nor ACBP was induced. We conclude that elevated concentrations of hepatic long-chain acyl-CoAs in PFDA-treated rats are not a major contributor to the induction of L-FABP or ACBP by peroxisome proliferators. A more plausible mechanism is that PFDA induces L-FABP and ACBP by activating the peroxisome proliferator receptor directly rather than indirectly through long-chain acyl-CoA esters.