A 10 month old female infant was evaluated for severe lactic acidosis. Clinically she was well nourished and had a substantial amount of adipose tissue despite recurrent episodes of acidosis. Her psychomotor development was retarded, her movements were dystonic and generalized seizures punctuated her course. Metabolic abnormalities included elevated blood concentrations of lactate, pyruvate, beta-hydroxybutyrate, acetoacetate, alanine, proline and glycine, decreased blood concentrations of glutamine, aspartate, valine and citrate, and intermittent elevations of serum cholesterol. A trial on a high-fat diet worsened the clinical condition and intensified the ketoacidosis and hyperalaninemia. Analysis of hepatic tissue obtained by open biopsy revealed increased concentrations of lactate, alanine, acetyl-CoA and other short-chain acyl-CoA esters, and decreased concentrations of oxaloacetate, citrate, alpha-ketoglutarate, malate and aspartate. The blood and tissue metabolic perturbations reflected a deficiency of hepatic pyruvate carboxylase. The apparent Km of hepatic citrate synthase for oxaloacetate was 4.6 micrometer. Calculated tissue oxaloacetate concentrations were 0.50--0.84 micrometer suggesting that tricarboxylic acid cycle activity was severely limited by the decreased availability of this substrate. An iv glucose tolerance test resulted in the paradoxical synthesis of ketone bodies. This observation, coupled with the intermittent hypercholesterolemia and the increased tissue acetyl-CoA concentrations, suggests that pyruvate carboxylase is important in modulating the fractional distribution of intracellular acetyl-CoA between the tricarboxylic acid cycle, the beta-hydroxy-beta-methyl-glutaryl-CoA cycle (and the synthesis of cholesterol and ketone bodies), and fatty acid synthesis. Treatment in future cases might be directed toward increasing tissue concentrations of oxaloacetate.