Compared with traditional techniques of tissue homogenization, digitonin fractionation of isolated hepatocytes provides a much more rapid and, in some instances, more accurate determination of enzyme compartmentation. Results with ATP citrate lyase (EC 188.8.131.52) illustrate the information that uniquely can be obtained. Although the enzyme was previously thought to be entirely cytosolic, digitonin fractionation has shown that a portion of total cellular ATP citrate lyase is bound to mitochondria or some other structure, and the amount bound varies with the animal's nutritional state. In hepatocytes from rats that were starved for 2 days, fed NIH stock diet ab libitum, or starved for 2 days and then refed a fat-free diet for 2 days, the noncytosolic activity was, respectively, 52, 21, or 24% of total cellular lyase. However, because starvation/refeeding greatly induces lipogenic enzymes, the amount of bound lyase activity in this dietary state was 10-12 times greater than that in rats that were starved or fed ad libitum. The association of citrate lyase with a subcellular organelle is also influenced by CoA. Addition of 20 microM CoA to the digitonin fractionation medium caused all of the lyase to be released from cells like a cytosolic enzyme. Conversely, when cellular free CoA was decreased by incubating hepatocytes with the hypolipidemic agent 5-(tetradecyloxy)-2-furoic acid, the amount of bound lyase was increased. These results suggest the possibility that the noncytosolic ATP citrate lyase may have a special role in lipogenesis.