To study the effect of zinc deficiency on folate metabolism, three groups of male Sprague-Dawley rats (zinc deficient (ZD), restricted-fed (RF + Zn), and ad libitum-fed control (control)) were given a semipurified 25% egg white protein diet. The ZD group received less than 10.3 nmol zinc/g of diet, while the RF + Zn and control groups were given 1620 nmol zinc/g of diet. After 6-7 weeks of feeding, severe zinc deficiency developed in ZD rats. Hepatic methionine synthetase activity was increased in the ZD group compared to both the RF + Zn and control groups, but hepatic 5,10-CH2-H4folate reductase activity was similar in all groups. This increased methionine synthetase activity found in zinc-deficient rats might induce secondary alterations in folate metabolism. These changes include significantly lowered plasma folate levels, decreased 5-CH3-H4folate in liver, and increased rates of histidine and formate oxidation. The latter two findings suggest that the available non-5-CH3-H4folate is increased in zinc deficiency. © 1987 Academic Press, Inc. All rights of reproduction in any form reserved.