Octanoate has been found to activate the gluconeogenic pathway in perfused isolated rat liver. Whether a net increase in the production of glucose is observed is a function of the relative concentrations of the glucose precursor and the fatty acid. The kinetics of octanoate interaction with the gluconeogenic pathway are influenced by the rate changes induced by decreases in pyruvate concentration as a result of the increased NAD redox potential produced by the oxidation of fatty acid. Taking this into account, two distinct effects of octanoate were identified. The first is an increase in the Vmax even at the lowest (25 microM) concentration of the fatty acid tested. The second is a progressive decrease in [pyruvate]0.5 as a function of octanoate concentration. The latter occurs at low (less than 0.1 mM), presumably physiological, pyruvate concentrations, when its mitochondrial transport is limiting, indicating that this process must have been activated. The former is observable even at high (greater than 0.5 mM), supraphysiological, concentrations of pyruvate, when its mitochondrial transport is not limiting, indicating that a distal step, presumably pyruvate carboxylation, is activated. The action of octanoate in increasing gluconeogenesis has been found not to be related to a decreased flux through pyruvate dehydrogenase, neither to changes in the NAD redox potential nor to its ability to increase energy production. Actually, the oxygen uptake induced by octanoate was largely accounted for by the production of ketone body and the latter process was found to be independent of variations in energy demand.