Triacsins A, B, C, and D are new inhibitors of long chain acyl-CoA synthetase (EC 126.96.36.199) and possess different inhibitory potencies against the enzyme (Tomoda, H., Igarashi, K., and Omura, S. (1987) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 921, 595-598). Acyl-CoA synthetase activity in the membrane fraction of Raji cells was also inhibited by triacsins. The same hierarchy of inhibitory potency as that against the enzyme from other sources, triacsin C greater than triacsin A much greater than triacsin D greater than or equal to triacsin B, was observed. When Raji cells were cultivated in the presence of triacsins, cell proliferation was inhibited in a dose-dependent fashion. The drug concentrations required for 50% inhibition of cell growth at day 2 were calculated to be 1.8 microM for triacsin A, much greater than 20 microM for triacsin B, 1.0 microM for triacsin C, and much greater than 15 microM for triacsin D, demonstrating a hierarchy for inhibitory potency of triacsins similar to that against the acyl-CoA synthetase activity. To understand the role of long chain acyl-CoA synthetase in animal cells, the effect of triacsins on the lipid metabolism of Raji cells was studied. When intact Raji cells were incubated with [14C]oleate in the presence of individual triacsins, the incorporation of [14C]oleate into each of the lipid fractions such as phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, and triacylglycerol was inhibited to an analogous extent. A common hierarchy, triacsin C greater than triacsin A much greater than triacsin D greater than triacsin B, was shown for the inhibition in each synthesis of the three lipids, which was identical with that for acyl-CoA synthetase. These findings indicate that the inhibition of acyl-CoA synthetase is well correlated with the inhibition of lipid synthesis. Taken together, the data strongly suggest that the inhibition of acyl-CoA synthetase by triacsins leads to the inhibition of lipid synthesis and eventually to the inhibition of proliferation of Raji cells.