Activities of choline acetyltransferase, acetylcholinesterase and butyrylcholinesterase were studied in the frontal cortex, temporal cortex, cerebellum and caudate nucleus obtained at autopsy from eight alcoholic cirrhotic patients who died in hepatic coma and from an equal number of age-matched subjects free from hepatic, neurological or psychiatric disorders. Activities of these enzymes were unaltered in the brains of cirrhotics compared to controls. Choline acetyltransferase and cholinesterase activities were also studied in the cerebral cortex, cerebellum, brain stem and striatum of rats four weeks following portacaval anastomosis and their sham-operated controls. Portacaval-shunting did not cause any statistically significant differences in the activities of choline acetyltransferase, acetyl or butyrylcholinesterases. These results argue against a presynaptic cholinergic lesion in human and experimental portal-systemic encephalopathy.