Dicarboxylic acids are prominent features of several diseases, including Reye's syndrome. Long-chain dicarboxylic acids have profound effects on the function and structure of isolated mitochondria, suggesting that they could contribute to the mitochondrial dysfunction in Reye's syndrome. Binding of fatty acids to albumin and the intracellular fatty acid-binding proteins is important in regulating the transport and metabolism of fatty acids and protects against the toxic effects of unbound fatty acids. We studied the binding of dicarboxylic acids to defatted albumin using equilibrium dialysis to assess to what extent dicarboxylic acids are likely to be bound in the plasma of patients. Dicarboxylic acids bind weakly to albumin in a molar ratio of 3.8, 4.2, 1.6, 0.8, and 0.7 to 1 for octadecanedioic, hexadecanedioic, tetradecanedioic, dodecanedioic, and decanedioic acid, respectively. The dissociation constants for long-chain dicarboxylic acids are 100-1,000-fold larger than those of comparable monocarboxylic acids. Oleate competes with dicarboxylic acid and reduces the moles of dicarboxylic acid bound per mol of albumin to less than 1. Octanoate inhibits dicarboxylic acid binding. Our observations indicate that in Reye's syndrome, substantial concentrations of dicarboxylic acids of patients may be free and potentially toxic to mitochondria and other cellular processes.