We describe the successful use of sodium benzoate in a neonate with hyperammonemia associated with congenital lactic acidosis caused by a partial deficiency of the E1 component of pyruvate dehydrogenase (PDH); of note, this biochemical disturbance has not been previously described in PDH deficiency. The pyruvate dehydrogenase complex in skin fibroblasts had 48% of normal activity with a deficiency of the E1 component. The infant presented with rapid onset of a severe metabolic lactic acidosis, hyperventilation, hyperammonemia, and coma. At 30 hours of age continuous peritoneal dialysis was started; however, plasma NH3 concentrations remained in the 300-400 micrograms/dl range over the next 12 hours. Sodium benzoate, 250 mg/kg, was infused intravenously with a decrease in plasma ammonia of 25 micrograms/dl/hr. Hippurate was documented in the urine and peritoneal fluid after benzoate therapy. At 10.5 months of age, 50 mg/kg dichloroacetate was administered orally under fasting conditions, which resulted in a 56 and 62% reduction in the serum lactate and pyruvate levels, respectively; after 2 weeks on dichloroacetate his fasting levels were significantly decreased. Fibroblast PDH activity responded similarly to this drug. In our patient sodium benzoate was rapidly effective in producing a decline in plasma ammonia that was associated with clinical improvement. We feel that its use in organic acidemias deserves further evaluation and, furthermore, that any child with suspected PDH deficiency requires a clinical trial of dichloroacetate.