Yeast cells take up exogenous fatty acids with subsequent rapid incorporation into glycerolipids. beta-Oxidation does not occur in Saccharomyces uvarum and is observed in Saccharomycopsis lipolytica only 2-5 min after addition of radioactively labeled fatty acid. Rates of fatty acid uptake are linear up to 30 s with S. lipolytica and up to 2 min with S. uvarum. The uptake kinetics are consistent with a dual mode of transport, comprising a saturable component with KT values in the range 10(-5)-10(-6) M, and apparently simple diffusion that predominates at high substrate concentrations. Kinetics of fatty acid permeation are independent of metabolic energy and membrane potential. At least two fatty acid carrier systems exist in both S. lipolytica and S. uvarum, one being specific for fatty acids with 12 and 14 C atoms, respectively, the other for C16 and C18 saturated or unsaturated fatty acids. Octanoic acid and decanoic acid are not taken up by S. lipolytica. Internalization of lauric acid and oleic acid by S. lipolytica cells is preceded by a rapid (less than 5 s) initial uptake which most likely represents irreversible adsorption. This phenomenon was not observed with heat-inactivated S. lipolytica cells or with viable S. uvarum. In azide-poisoned cells of S. lipolytica an up to 20-fold accumulation of unesterified fatty acid was observed within 30 s after the addition of substrate.