Although there exists some indirect evidence that circulating ketone bodies might inhibit their own production rate, the direct demonstration of this homeostatic feed-back phenomenon is still lacking. The present work aims at demonstrating the operation of this control mechanism in human fasting ketosis. Six obese subjects, who fasted 2-23 days, were given a primed constant i.v. infusion of 3- 14C-acetoacetate for 4 hr. After a control period of 2 hr, unlabeled sodium acetoacetate was administered as a primed constant i.v. infusion at the rate of 0.688-1.960 mmol/min until the end of the study. During both periods, the rates of inflow of ketones were estimated from the specific activity of total ketones measured under near isotopic steady state conditions. During the control period, total ketone concentration amounted to 3.98-9.65 mumol/ml and production rates of total ketones ranged between 1.450 and 2.053 mmol/min. The levels of free fatty acids, glycerol, glucose, and insulin averaged respecitvely 1.30 mumol/ml, 0.11 mumol/ml, 74 mg/100 ml, and 5.2 muU/ml. The administration of exogenous ketones during the second phase of the study induced a 47%-92% increase in total ketone levels. During this period, the endogenous production of ketones (calculated as the difference between total inflow rate and acetoacetate infusion rate) amounted only to 67%-90% of control values. Among other factors, this inhibition of ketogenesis was probably partially related to the direct antilipolytic effect of infused ketones. Indeed, there was a concomitant fall in FFA and in glycerol levels averaging respectively 13.5% and 17.3%, without significant changes in peripheral insulin concentrations. Our results demonstrate that during fasting, circulating ketone bodies exert an inhibitory influence on the rate of ketogenesis. This mechanism might play an important role in preventing the development of uncontrolled hyperketonemia during starvation.