Betaine was recently identified as an osmolyte in rat liver macrophages (Kupffer cells [KCs]) and sinusoidal endothelial cells (SECs). Betaine interferes with KC functions, such as phagocytosis, cytokine, and prostaglandin syntheses. As betaine is derived from choline, the present study was undertaken to evaluate osmosensitivity and cell heterogeneity of choline metabolism in rat liver. In the perfused rat liver after in vivo prelabeling with [14C]-choline, hypoosmotic stress induced a radioactivity release into the perfusate which was identified as [14C]-betaine by high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) analysis and which was inhibited by the anion exchanger inhibitor 4,4'-diisothiocyanostilbene-2,2'-disulfonic acid. Choline metabolism was studied in cultured liver parenchymal cells, (PCs), KCs, and SECs. Choline was taken up by all but betaine formation from choline was only detectable in PCs and not in KCs and SECs. Betaine formation in PCs was not stimulated by hyperosmolarity; rather, betaine has a role as an osmolyte in KCs and SECs but is of minor importance in PCs, as evidenced by only minor hyperosmolarity-induced betaine uptake. Thus, liver PCs can produce and release betaine derived from choline, and, thereby, possibly supply the osmolyte important for KC and SEC cell function. This may be another example for cell-to-cell interaction in the liver.