Carnitine palmitoyltransferase (CPT) I is expressed in the intestine of suckling rats; its mRNA increases very rapidly after birth, remains on a plateau until day 18 and decreases until weaning, when basal (adult) values are reached, which remain unchanged thereafter. CPT II mRNA values do not show any appreciable change in this period. CPT I and CPT II are expressed mainly in mucosa and, to a lesser extent, in the muscular part of the intestine. Intestinal expression of CPT I is maximal in duodenum and jejunum, whereas CPT II is expressed in a similar pattern throughout the whole intestine. Dam's milk may influence the intestinal expression of CPT I, since mRNA levels at birth are low but increase after the first lactation. Moreover, rats weaned at either day 18 or 21 decrease their mRNA levels. Apparently, CPT II gene expression is not influenced by the mother's milk. CPT I and CPT II are also expressed in the liver of suckling rats. Hepatic CPT I is maximal at day 3, and levels of CPT II mRNA do not change, in a similar fashion to that in intestine. The profile of expression of CPT I in liver and intestine strongly resembles that previously reported for mitochondrial 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-CoA synthase.