To study the acute and chronic effects of ethanol on hepatic fatty acid-binding protein, rats were pair-fed with liquid diets containing 36% of energy either as ethanol or as additional carbohydrate for 4 to 5 weeks. Animals were killed 90 min after intragastric administration of diets with or without ethanol. Alcohol feeding markedly increased liver triglycerides, with a modest rise in nonesterified fatty acids. Alcohol-fed rats developed hepatomegaly, with a 48% increase in hepatic cytosolic proteins. Fatty acid binding was first assessed by the kinetics of [14C]palmitate binding to cytosolic proteins. The maximal binding capacity more than doubled in the cytosol of the ethanol-fed rats compared to pair-fed controls, whereas the dissociation constant increased by 64%. Acute ethanol administration (3 gm per kg body weight) either to ethanol-fed or control rats did not have a significant effect. To identify the fatty acid-binding protein, labeled cytosolic proteins were fractionated by gel filtration: most of the cytosolic fatty acids eluted as a single peak in the 12,000 to 18,000 molecular weight region corresponding to the hepatic fatty acid-binding protein. The increase in this protein, confirmed by radial immunodiffusion (27.0 ± 1.4 mg per 100 gm body weight vs. 11.2 ± 1.6, in controls; p < 0.01), accounted for 22% of the total rise in cytosolic protein induced by chronic ethanol feeding.