The effects of sodium 2-[5-(4-chlorophenyl)pentyl]oxirane-2-carboxylate (POCA), a potent inhibitor of carnitine palmitoyltransferase I, on fatty acid oxidation were investigated using fibroblasts from control subjects and from patients with peroxisomal disorders. [1-14C]Palmitate oxidation was inhibited by 8% of the control value when 15 microM POCA was added to the medium. The inhibition by POCA was significantly (P less than 0.05) stronger in fibroblasts from patients with Zellweger syndrome or with neonatal adrenoleukodystrophy, in which peroxisomes and peroxisomal beta-oxidation enzymes were absent. However, the inhibition in fibroblasts from patients with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy, in which a specific defect of peroxisomal lignoceroyl-CoA synthetase was speculated, was similar to that in the controls. [1-14C]Lignocerate oxidation was not influenced by the addition of POCA, in samples from the controls and from the patients. These results indicate that peroxisomes account for a small but demonstrable proportion of palmitate oxidation, and add new evidence to the concept that lignocerate is oxidized exclusively in the peroxisomes. Our findings also support the hypotheses that the activity of palmitoyl-CoA synthetase and the enzymes of beta-oxidation cycle in peroxisomes are normal in patients with X-linked adrenoleukodystrophy and that a specific defect of lignoceroyl-CoA synthetase is responsible for the accumulation of very long chain fatty acids in these patients.