Fatty acid synthase (FAS) is the key enzyme of de novo fatty acid synthesis and has been shown to be involved in carcinogenesis of numerous human malignancies, including breast, colorectal, and prostate carcinomas, often associated with a worse prognosis. Although FAS is mainly expressed in the liver, an implication of FAS in hepatocarcinogenesis, has not yet been investigated. FAS expression is stimulated by insulin and glucose, and insulin is also the primary trigger of hepatocarcinogenesis in an endocrine experimental model, which is induced by low-number transplantation of islets of Langerhans into the livers of diabetic rats. We therefore investigated, whether FAS is implicated in hepatocarcinogenesis in this model and in comparison to chemically induced hepatocarcinogenesis after N-nitrosomorpholine (NNM) treatment in diabetic and normoglycemic rats. Preneoplastic clear-cell foci of altered hepatocytes (FAH), harvested after laser-microdissection of kryostat sections, showed an overexpression of FAS messenger RNA in gene expression profiles, done by array-hybridization, and in quantitative RT-PCR (Light-Cycler). Virtually, all (96-98%) of the subsequently investigated FAH and the glycogenotic hepatocellular adenomas and carcinomas showed an additional strong FAS protein overexpression. In the NNM-model, FAS protein was also overexpressed in the vast majority (87%) of glycogenotic FAH and neoplasms, in particular in the diabetic animals. Also two spontaneous glycogenotic FAH in control animals displayed strong FAS overexpression. Basophilic lesions and neoplasms, which occasionally develop out of the primary clear-cell FAH at later stages of carcinogenesis, however, lost FAS overexpression. In conclusion, FAS overexpression is an early phenonemon in spontaneous, hormonally and chemically induced rat hepatocarcinogenesis, demonstrable in early clear-cell (glycogenotic) FAH and hepatocellular neoplasms. FAS overexpression can be attributed to the local hyperinsulinemia in the transplantation model and belongs to cellular and metabolic alterations in the chemical model, which are induced by an insulinomimetic but yet unknown mechanism.