Two ethylnitrosourea-induced heterozygous mouse mutants with approximately 58 and 50% of wild-type lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activity and a γ-ray- induced heterozygous mutant with 50% of wild-type LDH activity in blood, liver and spleen (expressing predominantly the Ldh-1 gene) were recovered in mutagenicity experiments following spermatogonial treatment. Physiological and genetic studies revealed no indications for differences in fertility as well as hematological or other physiological traits between heterozygotes of each mutant line and wild types. This suggests that neither the mutations in the heterozygous state per se nor the resulting approximate 42 to 50% LDH deficiency affect metabolism and fitness. Physicochemical and immunological studies clearly demonstrated that the two mutations with 50% deficiency in heterozygotes result from null alleles of the Ldh-1 structural locus, generating neither enzyme activity nor immunological cross-reacting material. In contrast, the heterozygous mutant with approximately 58% of normal blood LDH activity was shown to be due to a Ldh-1 allele creating protein subunits, which in random assortment with wild-type subunits in vivo exhibit a reduced specific activity and further alterations of kinetic and physicochemical characteristics. All the mutations in the homozygous state were found to be lethal at an early postimplantation stage of embryonic development, probably due to a block of glycolysis with the corresponding loss of the main source of metabolic energy during this ontogenetic stage. The distinct physiological consequences of the total absence of a functioning LDH-A subunit in mice and humans are discussed. The key role regarding the presence as well as developmental pattern of isozymes in estimating the impact of enzyme-activity mutations on the phenotype of an organism is emphasized.