To identify metabolic pathways involved in hepatic lipoapoptosis, metabolic flux analysis using [U-(13)C(5)]glutamine as an isotopic tracer was applied to quantify phenotypic changes in H4IIEC3 hepatoma cells treated with either palmitate alone (PA-cells) or both palmitate and oleate in combination (PA/OA-cells). Our results indicate that palmitate inhibited glycolysis and lactate dehydrogenase fluxes while activating citric acid cycle (CAC) flux and glutamine uptake. This decoupling of glycolysis and CAC fluxes occurred during the period following palmitate exposure but preceding the onset of apoptosis. Oleate co-treatment restored most fluxes to their control levels, resulting in steatotic lipid accumulation while preventing apoptosis. In addition, palmitate strongly increased the cytosolic NAD(+)/NADH ratio, whereas oleate co-treatment had the opposite effect on cellular redox. We next examined the influence of amino acids on these free fatty acid-induced phenotypic changes. Increased medium amino acids enhanced reactive oxygen species (ROS) generation and apoptosis in PA-cells but not in PA/OA-cells. Overloading the medium with non-essential amino acids induced apoptosis, but essential amino acid overloading partially ameliorated apoptosis. Glutamate was the most effective single amino acid in promoting ROS. Amino acid overloading also increased cellular palmitoyl-ceramide; however, ceramide synthesis inhibitors had no effect on measurable indicators of apoptosis. Our results indicate that free fatty acid-induced ROS generation and apoptosis are accompanied by the decoupling of glycolysis and CAC fluxes leading to abnormal cytosolic redox states. Amino acids play a modulatory role in these processes via a mechanism that does not involve ceramide accumulation.