The activity of 22 enzymes of energy metabolism was determined in m. vastus lateralis quadricipitis of 14 adolescents aged 13-15 years (7 girls) and 14 adults aged 22 to 42 years (7 female subjects). The measurements were performed kinetically, at 37 degrees C, using optimal or near-to-optimal procedures. With the exception of one enzyme, enolase, no differences between sexes were observed in the two age groups. Glycolytic enzymes, including fructose-6-phosphate kinase, showed no significant differences in their activity in adults as compared to adolescents. The activity of enolase was lower in females of both age groups, but no difference due to age was found in this respect. Of the oxidative enzymes studied, only citrate synthase showed no significant difference in adults vs adolescents, whereas the activities of lipoamide dehydrogenase (+ 40%), NADP-isocitrate dehydrogenase (+ 44%), fumarase (+ 24.5%), total malate dehydrogenase (+ 42.2%) and NADH-dehydrogenase (+ 39%) were all significantly higher in the latter group. Aspartate aminotransferase was also 44% higher in adolescents. The possible physiological importance of these observations is discussed with regard to the functional capacity of the skeletal muscle. The hypothesis was considered that adolescents of this age may have a glycolytic capacity comparable to adults, but that they may oxidize pyruvate at a rate higher than adults.