To reveal the metabolic fate of acetate in neoplasms that may characterize the accumulation patterns of [1-(11)C]acetate in tumors depicted by positron emission tomography. Four tumor cell lines (LS174T, RPMI2650, A2780, and A375) and fibroblasts in growing and resting states were used. In uptake experiments, cells were incubated with[1-(14)C]acetate for 40 min. [(14)C]CO(2) was measured in the tight-air chamber, and the metabolites in cells were identified by thin layer chromatography and paper chromatography. The glucose metabolic rate of each cell line was measured with [2,6-(3)H]2-deoxy-glucose (DG), and the growth activity of each cell line was estimated by measuring the incorporation of [(3)H]methyl thymidine into DNA. Compared with resting fibroblasts, all four tumor cell lines showed higher accumulation of (14)C activity from [1-(14)C]acetate. These tumor-to-normal ratios of [1-(14)C]acetate were larger than those of DG. Tumor cells incorporated (14)C activity into the lipid-soluble fraction, mostly of phosphatidylcholine and neutral lipids, more prominently than did fibroblasts. The lipid-soluble fraction of (14)C accumulation in cells showed a positive correlation with growth activity, whereas the water-soluble and CO(2) fractions did not. These findings suggest that the high tumor-to-normal ratio of [1-(14)C]acetate is mainly due to the enhanced lipid synthesis, which reflects the high growth activity of neoplasms. This in vitro study suggests that [1-(11)C]acetate is appropriate for estimating the growth activity of tumor cells.