Mitochondria isolated from normal rat liver and AS-30D hepatoma were concurrently evaluated with regard to their bioenergetic and metabolic properties. AS-30D mitochondria oxidized many NAD-linked respiratory substrates at rates 1.5-4 times faster than those from liver, a fact which contributes to their diminished membrane depolarization on conversion from state 4 to state 3 respiration. AS-30D mitochondria exhibited no signs of a "truncated" Krebs cycle, nor did they oxidize malate preferentially based upon its origin in the cytosol or the mitochondrial matrix. In addition, β-oxidation in AS-30D mitochoadria was not sufficient to suppress respiratory CO2 production and induce pyruvate carboxylation to the extent observed in liver. Finally, AS-30D mitochondria were able to oxidize externally generated NADH in a reconstituted system, but in a manner independent of the transmembrane electrical potential (ΔΨ), suggesting that the malate-aspartate shuttle is not operable in vivo. This fact may necessitate the adaptations tumor cells make to reoxidize cytosolic NADH through glycolysis even in the presence of adequate oxygen.