We examined whether proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) could provide accurate information on histological grade and cell proliferation in astrocytomas. We studied 23 patients with astrocytomas: five grade II, 10 grade III and eight with grade IV (glioblastoma multiforme). We performed proton MRS and determined the Ki-67 labeling index (LI), a tumour proliferation marker, in the same areas of the astrocytomas, and examined the statistical relationship between proton MRS and Ki-67 LI. The N-acetylaspartate (NAA)/creatine-phosphocreatine (Cr) and NAA/choline (Cho)-containing compound ratios were always significantly lower and the Cho/Cr ratios significantly higher than those for normal brain. The Cho/Cr ratio correlated positively and the NAA/Cho ratio inversely with Ki-67 LI. These findings suggest that the Cho signal in proton MRS reflects cellular proliferation. In Kaplan-Meier survival analysis, there was no significant difference between high (> 2.0, 14 cases) and low (< 2.0, 9 cases) Cho/cr ratio groups.