Acetylcholine synthesis from radiolabelled glucose was monitored in cerebral cortex cells isolated from brains of suckling and adult rats. Acetylcholine synthesis was found much higher in suckling animals, both in the absence and presence of acetylcholinesterase (acetylcholine hydrolase, EC 184.108.40.206) inhibitor, paraoxon. Together with choline (20 microM), carnitine was found to stimulate acetylcholine synthesis in a synergistic way in cortex cells from adult rats (18%). Choline, however, was incapable of reversing an inhibitory effect exerted by carnitine on acetylcholine synthesis in cortex cells from suckling animals. Distribution of carnitine derivatives was found significantly different in the cells from young and old animals, the content of acetylcarnitine decreased with age with a corresponding increase of free carnitine. The observed differences in carnitine effect on acetylcholine synthesis suggested that high acetylcarnitine in cells capable of beta-oxidation might be correlated with the lower level of acetylcholine synthesis.