Protein synthesis rate (PSR) can be assessed in vivo using positron emission tomography with L-[1-11C]tyrosine (TYR-PET). Biological activity of soft tissue sarcomas (STS) can be measured in vitro by the mitotic rate and number of proliferating cells. In STS the grade of malignancy, in which the mitotic index plays a major role, is considered to be the major standard in predicting biological tumour behaviour. This study was designed to test the validity of TYR-PET in relation to different histopathological features. In 21 patients with untreated STS, the PSR was measured using TYR-PET. The number of mitoses was counted and tumours were graded according to the grading system of Coindre et al. (Cancer 1986; 58:306-309). Proliferative activity was assessed by immunohistological detection of the Ki-67 nuclear antigen using MIB-1 monoclonal antibody. To test the association between the PSR and these tumour parameters, a correlation analysis was performed. A significant (P<0.05) correlation was found between PSR and the Ki-67 proliferation index (R = 0.54), and between PSR and mitotic rate (R = 0.64). There was no correlation between PSR and tumour grade. The present study in malignant soft tissue tumours relates in vivo tumour metabolism as established with TYR-PET to tumour activity measured in vitro and indicates that the non-invasive method of TYR-PET can estimate the mitotic and proliferative activity in STS.