The carcinogenic effects of methyl-deficient, amino acid-defined diets have been attributed to alterations in cellular methylation reactions. These diets contain no choline, and methionine is replaced by homocysteine. Hence, all methyl groups needed for methionine biosynthesis with subsequent formation of S-adenosylmethionine and polyamines must be formed de novo utilizing folate-dependent reduction of one-carbon units. In rats fed the methyl-deficient diet, there was a marked decrease in total liver folate levels. This decrease was apparent in the levels of the individual forms of folate: 10-HCO-H4folate, 5-HCO-H4folate, 5-CH3-H4folate and H4folate. The percent of the total folate pool made up by 5-CH3-H4folate did not change, however, until after the rats had been fed the methyl-deficient diet for 4 wk, and then an increase was seen. After the methyl-deficient rats were switched to a nutritionally adequate control diet containing methionine and choline, all values rapidly reversed. Increased use of folate for methyl group biosynthesis may be responsible for the loss of folates from the liver.