The aim of this work was to investigate the capacity for synthesis of starch and fatty acids from exogenous metabolites by plastids from developing embryos of oilseed rape (Brassica napus L.). A method was developed for the rapid isolation from developing embryos of intact plastids with low contamination by cytosolic enzymes. The plastids contain a complete glycolytic pathway, NADP-glucose-6-phosphate dehydrogenase, NADP-6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenase, fructose-1,6-bisphosphatase, NADP-malic enzyme, the pyruvate dehydrogenase complex (PDC), and acetyl-CoA carboxylase. Organelle fractionation studies showed that 67% of the total cellular PDC activity was in the plastids. The isolated plastids were fed with 14C-labelled carbon precursors and the incorporation of 14C into starch and fatty acids was determined. 14C from glucose-6-phosphate (G-6-P), fructose, glucose, fructose-6-phosphate and dihydroxyacetone phosphate (DHAP) was incorporated into starch in an intactness- and ATP-dependent manner. The rate of starch synthesis was highest from G-6-P, although fructose gave rates which were 70% of those from G-6-P. Glucose-1-phosphate was not utilized by intact plastids for starch synthesis. The plastids utilized pyruvate, G-6-P, DHAP, malate and acetate as substrates for fatty acid synthesis. Of these substrates, pyruvate and G-6-P supported the highest rates of synthesis. These studies show that several cytosolic metabolites may contribute to starch and/or fatty acid synthesis in the developing embryos of oilseed rape.