Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) constitutes a severe intestinal disorder in developed countries with increasing incidence worldwide. Upcoming evidence indicates an important role of intestinal epithelial barrier function in the development of IBD. Fatty acids exert nutritional and protective effects on enterocytes, serve as activators of transcription and constitute precursors of inflammatory mediators. The aim of this study was to investigate differential regulation of genes involved in fatty acid uptake and endogenous fatty acid biosynthesis in IBD. Mucosal biopsy specimens from non-affected regions of the intestine were subjected to DNA microarray analysis. Gene array analysis revealed a variety of genes involved in fatty acid uptake and synthesis to be differentially expressed in ileum and colon of selected IBD patients. To verify these results, real-time RT-PCR was performed for selected regulated candidate genes in larger IBD sample numbers. In single biopsy analysis long chain acyl-CoA synthetase (ACSL) 1 and 4 were upregulated in IBD (P<0.05), while a significant decrease in fatty acid synthase expression was found in ileum and colon of ulcerative colitis patients (P<0.001). Expression of the transcription factor liver X receptor (LXR) which was previously shown to induce fatty acid synthase gene expression was not altered on mRNA level in IBD. However, in cell culture experiments using the human intestinal cell line LS174T induction of fatty acid synthase by the LXR ligand T0901317 was inhibited by TNFalpha. Moreover, these experiments indicated a decrease of LXR protein levels by TNFalpha treatment. These data suggest that the decrease of fatty acid synthase expression in ulcerative colitis patients could be at least partially due to a loss of LXR expression and function in the presence of pro-inflammatory cytokines. Observed alterations in expression of genes of fatty acid metabolism may contribute to the pathophysiology of ulcerative colitis.