The association between the energy charge and cellular damage caused by metabolic inhibitors was investigated in a cellular system of quiescent fibroblasts. The cell damage was assessed by the release of lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) which indicates a severe change of membrane integrity. Inhibition of glycolysis resulted in release of LDH when the energy charge decreased below 0.5 at an ATP level of 10% of the original level. If oxidative phosphorylation was inhibited, the energy charge decreased to 0.1-0.35 (dependent on the type of inhibitor) a long time before release of LDH, and no change occurred in the energy charge when release of LDH started. The ATP level was 0.5-2% of the original at this time. Even a decrease of the energy charge to 0.1 could be reversed to a normal level, and at the same time the morphological cellular changes were fully reversed and no release of LDH occurred. The conclusion is that no simple correlation between energy charge and cell survival exists. The different levels of ATP at which release of LDH started after inhibition of glycolysis and oxidative phosphorylation indicate a special role of glycolysis in maintaining the membrane function and integrity. This was emphasized by measuring the potassium loss of the cells which was much more marked after inhibition of glycolysis.