Although non.alcoholic fatty liver disease (NA FLD) is considered a benign disorder, hepatic steatosis has been proposed to be involved in the tumorigenesis of liver cancer. However, the underlying mechanism for carcinogenesis in fatty liver diseases remains unclear. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been hypothesized to serve a key role in tumorigenesis. Tumor formation begins with a subset of heterogeneous cells that share properties with stem cells, such as self.renewal and undifferentiated properties. Our previous study reported that the saturated fatty acid palmitate (PA) significantly enhanced the CSC properties of the HepG2 human liver cancer cell line; however, its underlying mechanisms are unknown. In the present study, a proteomic approach was used to investigate the palmitoylation of proteins in HepG2 CSCs. CSC behavior was induced in HepG2 cells via 200 μM PA. Proteomic analysis was performed to identify post.transcriptional modifications of proteins in HepG2 CSCs in response to PA treatment. The present study identified proteins modified by palmitoylation in HepG2 CSC spheres formed following PA treatment. It was therefore hypothesized that palmitoylation may be crucial for CSC sphere formation. Furthermore, the present study demonstrated that two palmitoylation inhibitors, tunicamycin (5, 10 and 25 μg/ml) and 2.bromohexadecanoic acid (25, 50 and 150 μM), significantly decreased CSC sphere formation without affecting cell viability. An association was identified between sphere formation capacity and tumor.initiating capacity of CSCs. The results of the present study demonstrated that protein palmitoylation may influence the PA. induced CSC tumor.initiating capacity, and that the inhibition of palmitoylation may be a suitable chemopreventive strategy for treating patients with NA FLD .