In C. elegans, the newly identified ace-3 is the third gene affecting acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity. ace-3 II specifically affects class C AChE and is unlinked to ace-1 X or ace-2 I, which affect the other two AChE classes (A and B, respectively). Strains homozygous for an ace-3 mutation have no apparent behavioral or developmental defect; ace-1 ace-3 and ace-2 ace-3 double mutants are also nearly wild type. In contrast, ace-1 ace-2 ace-3 triple mutant animals are paralyzed and developmentally arrested; their embryonic development is relatively unimpaired, but they are unable to grow beyond the hatching stage. Based on the analysis of genetic mosaics, we conclude that in the absence of ace-2 and ace-3 function, the expression of ace-1(+) in muscle cells, but not in neurons, is essential for postembryonic viability.