Although immaturity of the liver and synthesis of monohydroxy bile acids have been implicated as pathogenic factors in neonatal cholestasis, there is no direct evidence to show that these bile acids induce cholestasis in the newborn. In the present investigation, we compared the effects of lithocholic acid (LCA) injection on bile flow in suckling (2-week-old) and adult (12-week-old) guinea pigs. Bile flow was not modified by LCA in 2-week-old animals, but it was reduced by 50 to 80% in the adults, the decrease being dose-dependent. In the newborn, the injected LCA was mainly secreted in bile (>90%), while in the adults it was distributed between the liver and bile. The percentage of biliary bile acids (as determined by gas-liquid chromatography) in the two groups was similar before and after LCA injection. Morphologic lesions characteristic of LCA-induced cholestasis were observed only in the adult guinea pigs. This study demonstrates that the newborn guinea pig is less susceptible to cholestasis induced by 90 to 180 /imoles per kg body weight of lithocholate and that, in the neonatal liver, there is no defect in the transport of this bile acid from blood to bile.