The present study has examined certain metabolic markers in fetal neocortical tissue transplanted to the cortex, hippocampus, striatum, or ventricle. Particularly, the immunocytochemical expression of neuron-specific enolase (NSE) was studied in a series of host rats ranging between 10 days and 15 months postoperative. NSE is a major glycolytic pathway enzyme found in all neurons. The antibody to NSE is a very reliable marker for neuronal functional metabolic activity and developmental status and its onset has been shown to coincide with synaptic connections. In some grafts oxidative metabolic status was investigated using cytochrome oxidase (CO) histochemistry. In addition, the normal development of NSE expression in rat neocortex was also examined. In normal development, NSE was weakly expressed in fetal brain, but by 1-2 weeks postnatal the enzyme was strongly expressed in all neurons. Typical cortical laminar patterns were evident at 30 days with neurons in layer V and scattered interneurons the most strongly stained. In cortex-cortex transplants NSE expression was very weak; at 1-3 weeks postoperative, it was practically nonexistent; and at all later times only a minority of neurons had normal expression when compared to that in normal development even though by Nissl staining standards in adjacent sections they appeared "normal." Labeling indices ranged between 30 and 49%. Intraventricular grafts had consistently low NSE expression with labeling indices ranging between 18 and 46%. However, when the neocortical tissue was placed in other regions, neuronal NSE appeared only slightly below normal. CO histochemistry corroborated the NSE activity with regards to graft placement. Several possibilities that may account for reduced NSE profile in transplanted neurons include incomplete migration patterns, reduced synaptic connectivity, and potential ischemia causing lowered protein synthesis during reestablishment of vascular connections. If neuronal glycolysis is weakened, it is possible that neurotransmitter production or axonal transport are reduced. Since most energy capacity in brain is dependent on the glycolytic sequence for oxidative metabolism, reduced glycolytic capacity, as depicted by NSE expression, may suggest the presence of transplanted neurons that have adapted to their new environment with a relatively immature profile.