The mitochondrial tricarboxylate (citrate) carrier plays an important role in hepatic intermediary metabolism because, among other functions, it supplies the cytosol with acetyl units for fatty-acid synthesis. In this study, the effect of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA, n-6) on the function of this mitochondrial transporter and on lipogenic enzyme activities was investigated by feeding rats for 4 weeks with a 15%-fat diet composed of high linoleic safflower oil. Citrate transport was strongly reduced in liver mitochondria isolated from PUFA-treated rats. A reduced transport activity was also observed when solubilized mitochondrial citrate carrier from PUFA-treated rats was reconstituted into liposomes. In the same animals, a decrease of cytosolic lipogenic enzyme activities was observed. These results indicate a coordinated modulation of citrate carrier and of lipogenic enzyme activities by PUFA feeding. Kinetic analysis of the carrier activity showed that only V(max) decreased, whereas K(m) was almost virtually unaffected. The PUFA-mediated effect is most likely due to the reduced mRNA level and lower content of the citrate carrier protein observed in the safflower oil-fed rats.