Defatted liver fatty acid binding protein (FABP) reverses the inhibitory effect of palmitoyl-CoA on adenine nucleotide transport in rat liver mitochondria; addition of titrating amounts of FABP to mitochondria pretreated with palmitoyl-CoA stimulates nucleotide transport and that activation parallels the removal of the inhibitor from mitochondria. This effect is specific only for FABP; all other cytosolic proteins which do not bind fatty acids do not influence nucleotide transport activity. Addition of free fatty acids (which can compete for ligand binding sites on FABP) to mitochondria pretreated with palmitoyl-CoA interferes with the reversal activity of FABP. Adding FABP alone to freshly isolated mitochondria also activates nucleotide transport activity suggesting that the originally submaximal activity is probably due to the presence of endogenous long-chain acyl-CoA esters in the mitochondrial preparation. Because FABP is present in relatively high concentration in most mammalian cells, these observations offer a likely explanation of why the potent inhibitory effects of long-chain acyl-CoA esters on adenine nucleotide transport in isolated mitochondria are not seen in the intact cell.