Quantitative histochemical methods (microphotometric kinetic and end-point measurements, and morphometric analyses of reactive areas) were used to investigate the levels of succinate dehydrogenase (SDH) in the hippocampus of young adult (3-6 months old) and aged male rats (24-27 months old). Methodological studies concerning the demonstration of SDH activity, which were performed using hippocampi of young animals, revealed a linear relationship between the reaction time and the amount of reaction product for up to 20 min; kinetic (continuous) and end-point measurements provided the same results. In a number of experiments, it was established that an incubation medium consisting of 100 mM succinate, 10 mM sodium azide, 3 mM nitro blue tetrazolium chloride, 0.25 mM phenazine methosulfate, and 7.5% polyvinylalcohol in 0.05 M Hepes buffer (final pH 7.5) was optimal for quantitative SDH histochemistry in the hippocampus. Comparative quantitative investigations of SDH activity in rat hippocampi showed that, in most regions and layers of the hippocampus of both young and aged rats, the levels of SDH activity increased along the rostrocaudal axis of the hippocampus, i.e., higher levels were present in the caudal than in the rostral pole. In both groups, the highest SDH levels were observed in the molecular layer of the cornu ammonis (CA)-1, the CA-3, and the fascia dentata (middle and outer thirds), most of which are termination fields of the excitatory perforant path arising from the regio ento-rhinalis. Furthermore, in almost all of the investigated layers, the older animals exhibited lower SDH levels than young animals. These differences were statistically significant in the molecular layer of the fascia dentata and in most layers of the CA-3. The lower SDH levels in aged animals are discussed in relation to the reduced capacity for energy metabolism in the aging brain.