Abstract: Investigating the possibility that acetylcholinesterase (AChE) and butyrylcholinesterase (BuChE) are regulated in a coordinated manner, we have examined the natural variation in activity of these two enzymes in several tissues of adult male Sprague-Dawley, Fischer-344, and Wistar-Furth rats. Both enzymes varied greatly in mean activity among brain, diaphragm, atria, serum, superior cervical ganglia, and liver. In Sprague-Dawley rats there were also large individual variations with up to a fivefold range of AChE activities and up to a 100-fold range of BuChE activities in a given tissue. Individual variations in cholinesterase activities appeared to be smaller in the inbred Fischer-344 or Wistar-Furth rats. Experiments with internal standards of partially purified AChE and BuChE indicated that the individual variations probably reflected differences in the intrinsic content or specific activity of the tissue enzymes. Comparison of the AChE activities in different tissues of a given group of rats failed to reveal statistically significant correlations in any strain (i.e., the relative activity of any one tissue was no guide to the relative activity of any other tissue in the same rat). This result indicates that the regulation of AChE is tissue-specific. By contrast, BuChE activity showed highly significant correlations among the majority of the tissues examined in the Sprague-Dawley rats, implying that widely dispersed factors can affect the regulation of this enzyme. Body-wide regulation is not necessarily the rule, however, since only a single tissue pair in the inbred Fischer rats and none of the pairs in the Wistar-Furth rats showed significant correlations of BuChE activity. In general, AChE and BuChE activities were not correlated with each other to a statistically significant degree. We conclude that the control of these enzymes normally involves different mechanisms and is strongly affected by the genetic background of the sample population.