We conducted an in-depth investigation of the effects of conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) on the expression of key metabolic genes and genes of known importance in intestinal lipid metabolism using the Caco-2 cell model. Cells were treated with 80 mu mol/L of linoleic acid (control), trans-10, cis-12 CLA or cis-9, trans-11 CLA. RNA was isolated from the cells, labelled and hybridized to the Affymetrix U133 2.0 Plus arrays (n = 3). Data and functional analysis were preformed using Bioconductor. Gene ontology analysis (GO) revealed a significant enrichment (P < 0.0001) for the GO term lipid metabolism with genes up-regulated by trans-10, cis-12 CLA. Trans-10, cis-12 CLA, but not cis-9, trans-11 CLA, altered the expression of a number of genes involved in lipid transport, fatty acid metabolism, lipolysis, beta-oxidation, steroid metabolism, cholesterol biosynthesis, membrane lipid metabolism, gluconeogenesis and the citrate cycle. These observations warrant further investigation to understand their potential role in the metabolic syndrome..