The study of the regulation of glucose utilization by inhibition of fatty acid oxidation is greatly enhanced by the availability of specific inhibitors of fatty acid oxidation. This study examines the regulation of cardiac glucose utilization by inhibition of fatty acid oxidation at different sites. The effects of Etomoxir and 4-bromocrotonic acid (4-BCA) on the oxidation of [1-14C]palmitate, [1-14C]-octanoate and [U-14C]glucose were studied in isolated rat myocytes. Fifty percent inhibition of palmitate oxidation was achieved at 8 microM Etomoxir and 40 microM 4-BCA. Octanoate oxidation was inhibited only by 4-BCA. In contrast to their effect on palmitate oxidation, these inhibitors significantly stimulated the oxidation of glucose in a concentration-dependent manner. Moreover, the oxidation of [2-14C]pyruvate was increased two-fold by these compounds. The rate of utilization of [U-14C]-2-deoxyglucose was also stimulated 2-3 times by these inhibitors. These studies suggest that the stimulation of glucose utilization via the inhibition of fatty acid oxidation may be mediated through the stimulation of both glucose transport and the oxidation of pyruvate by the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex.