Catechol-O-methyltransferase (COMT) catalyzes the O-methylation of catechol hormones, neurotransmitters and certain drugs. It is subject to genetic polymorphism and ethnic differences. High red blood cell (RBC) COMT activity has been correlated with a poor response to levodopa treatment in Parkinson's disease. RBC COMT was determined in a Norwegian population (n = 213) of whom 115 were Saami (Laaps). The Saami had 16.5% lower RBC COMT activity compared to a non-Saami population sample from the northern part of Norway (n = 50), 13.9 vs. 16.4 units/ml RBC (U) (P = 0.04). This is the first report of any population with lower RBC COMT activity than a Caucasian population. A wide range of RBC COMT activities was found in the entire population examined (1.3-38.3 U).