Preclimacteric avocado (Persea americana Mill.) fruits produced very little ethylene and had only a trace amount of l-aminocyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (ACC) and a very low activity of ACC synthase. In contrast, a significant amount of l-(malonylamino)cyclopropane-1-carboxylic acid (MACC) was detected during the preclimacteric stage. In harvested fruits, both ACC synthase activity and the level of ACC increased markedly during the climacteric rise reaching a peak shortly before the climacteric peak. The level of MACC also increased at the climacteric stage. Cycloheximide and cordycepin inhibited the synthesis of ACC synthase in discs excised from preclimacteric fruits. A low but measurable ethylene forming enzyme (EFE) activity was detected during the preclimacteric stage. During ripening, EFE activity increased only at the beginning of the climacteric rise. ACC synthase and EFE activities and the ACC level declined rapidly after the climacteric peak. Application of ACC to attached or detached fruits resulted in increased ethylene production and ripening of the fruits. Exogenous ethylene stimulated EFE activity in intact fruits prior to the increase in ethylene production. The data suggest that conversion of S-adenosylmethionine to ACC is the major factor limiting ethylene production during the preclimacteric stage. ACC synthase is first synthesized during ripening and this leads to the production of ethylene which in turn induces an additional increase in ACC synthase activity. Only when ethylene reaches a certain level does it induce increased EFE activity.