Alcohol dehydrogenase activity has been measured in 186 iso-second chromosome lines--104 from seven Australian populations and 82 from six Chinese populations. Restriction endonuclease variation in the Adh gene region in these lines has previously been described (Jiang & Gibson, 1991). The mean ADH activity of AdhF and AdhS lines was significantly higher in the Chinese samples than in the Australian samples. In each population on both continents the mean activity of the AdhF lines is significantly higher than that of the AdhS lines. Six lines homozygous for a thermostability variant, AdhFChD (detected in four of the Chinese populations), had intermediate levels of ADH activity and protein amount. In a subset of the lines with the highest and lowest levels of ADH, there was a correlation of 0.69 between ADH activity and ADH CRM. None of the restriction site variants was consistently associated with the amount of ADH activity. Associations between BamHI (-7.2), the Adh polymorphism and ADH activity suggest that there are modifiers of ADH 5' to the gene. The deletion (0.2) at position -2.8 on the restriction map (Jiang & Gibson, 1991) was associated with increased levels of ADH activity in AdhS lines from China. Two unique insertions in the gene region were associated with low activity in AdhF lines and a null activity allele had a deletion removing most of exon 2. A single line with a duplication of a part of the Adh coding region and of the 5' regulatory section had relatively high ADH activity. Considering all the data, the main factor affecting ADH activity levels in populations is the frequency of AdhF.