Lipoprotein lipase (LPL) in cattle has been extensively studied in adipose tissue, milk and mammary gland, but only to a limited extent in muscles. Therefore, we have adapted our in vitro LPL assay method for the measurement of LPL activity and describe, for the first time, sensitive procedures to quantify LPL activity and mRNA levels in bovine muscles. In vitro activation of bovine LPL activity is approximately 5-fold greater with rat than with bovine sera for heart and muscles, but not for adipose tissues. Values of LPL activity are in the upper range of those previously reported for rat or bovine tissues. With rat serum as activator, LPL activity in the heart of seven calves (662-832 mU g-1) is at least 3-fold lower than in the rat heart (2150-2950 mU g-1, P < 0.05). LPL activity is higher in bovine heart and oxidative muscles (412-972 mU g-1), except the diaphragm, than in mixed or glycolytic muscles (33-154 mU g-1, P < 0.05). The levels of LPL transcripts are positively related to LPL activity in bovine tissues, including muscles and adipose tissues.