The effects on oxidation and composition of fatty acids in rat liver were compared after administration of fatty acids with sulfur substituted in different positions. It has been hypothesized that drugs with hydrophobic backbone have lipid-lowering effects because they are not easily catabolized by mitochondrial beta-oxidation. Thia fatty acids cannot be beta-oxidized when sulfur is in 3-position, but beta-oxidation is possible when sulfur is positioned further from the carboxyl group. To investigate whether catabolism of thia fatty acids would affect their ability to influence lipid metabolism, a series of thia fatty acids were synthesized and administered by oral gavage to male Wistar rats (300 mg/kg bodyweight/day for 7 days). Depending on the position of the sulfur atom and the chain length, the thia fatty acids were beta-oxidized, desaturated and/or elongated, and the accumulated amounts were lower as the sulfur atom were positioned further from the carboxyl group. All thia fatty acids led to high peroxisomal beta-oxidation of endogenous fatty acids, whereas the mitochondrial beta-oxidation was high when sulfur was in 3-position, low when sulfur was in 4-position and similar to controls when sulfur was in 5- or 7-position. The changes in hepatic fatty acid composition were more pronounced when sulfur was positioned close to the carboxyl group. In conclusion, both the position of the sulfur atom and the chain length appear to determine the catabolic fate of thia fatty acids, and the non-beta-oxidizable thia fatty acids were most potent in regulating oxidation and composition of endogenous fatty acids in rat liver.