Preclinical data indicate that the administration of the amino acid L-threonine increases glycine levels in rat spinal cord. In order to investigate glycinergic mechanisms in spasticity, and other signs of the upper motor syndrome, we gave 4.5 and 6.0 g/day of L-threonine to 18 patients with familial spastic paraparesis (FSP) according to a double-blind, crossover protocol. The response to treatment at the end of each 2-week period was based upon three measures: the physician's global impressions; the patients' global impressions; and semiquantitative ratings of strength, muscle tone, DTRs, walking, hopping, and running. Blood and CSF were collected during each treatment period for amino acid analyses. Based upon the severity rating scales, there was a statistically significant (p less than 0.02) decrease in motor impairment and spasticity during L-threonine administration compared to placebo treatment; significant treatment effects were not found on the physician's and patients' global impressions. Plasma and CSF levels of threonine increased significantly during L-threonine treatment but glycine levels did not change. These data indicate that L-threonine significantly suppressed the signs of spasticity even though the benefits were not clinically valuable.