We compared the uptake of bound palmitate by rat hepatocytes to its uptake by polyethylene using beta-lactoglobulin (BLG) as the binding protein. The experiments were designed to supply a direct measure of the protein-dependent change in the diffusive conductance of extracellular fluid without determining the diffusion coefficients for free and bound fatty acid or the off-rate constant for protein binding. Rate-limiting dissociation in the stirred phase of extracellular fluid was excluded. The results obtained with BLG are strikingly similar to those previously obtained with albumin and provide additional circumstantial evidence that when the free fraction is small, palmitate uptake is partially driven by the concentration of bound fatty acid. Because this phenomenon is not specific for the binding protein, it may reflect direct exchange of ligand between the binding protein in extracellular fluid and the putative transport protein in the hepatocyte plasma membrane.