To determine the effect of fatty acid availability on leucine metabolism, 14-h fasted dogs were infused with either glycerol or triglyceride plus heparin, and 46-h fasted dogs were infused with either nicotinic acid or nicotinic acid plus triglyceride and heparin. Leucine metabolism was assessed using a simultaneous infusion of L-[4,5-3H]leucine and alpha-[1-14C]ketoisocaproate. Leucine, alpha-ketoisocaproate (KIC), and totalleucine carbon (leucine plus KIC) flux and oxidation rates were calculated at steady state. In 14-h fasted animals, infusion of triglyceride and heparin increased plasma free fatty acids (FFA) by 0.7 mM (P less than 0.01) and decreased leucine (P less than 0.01), total leucine carbon flux (P less than 0.02), and oxidation (P less than 0.05). The estimated rate of leucine utilization not accounted for by oxidation and KIC flux decreased, but the changes were not significant. During glycerol infusion, leucine and KIC flux and oxidation did not change. In 46-h fasted dogs, nicotinic acid decreased FFA by 1.0 mM (P less than 0.01) and increased (P less than 0.05) the rate of leucine and total leucine carbon flux, but did not affect KIC flux. Leucine oxidation increased (P less than 0.01) by nearly threefold, whereas nonoxidized leucine utilization decreased. Infusion of triglyceride plus heparin together with nicotinic acid blunted some of the responses observed with nicotinic acid alone. In that changes in oxidation under steady state condition reflect changes in net leucine balance, these data suggest that FFA availability may positively affect the sparing of at least one essential amino acid and may influence whole body protein metabolism.