Acetylcholinesterase (AChE) activity was measured in cholinergic and non-cholinergic neurons in the central nervous system of the leech. Intracellular AChE was assayed by pretreating intact ganglia with echothiophate to inhibit selectively extracellular enzyme. The concentration of intracellular AChE in cholinergic neurons was 3- to 24- fold higher than that in non-cholinergic cells. The properties of AChE in extracts of leech ganglia were similar to those of “true” acetylcholinesterase, although butyrylthiocholine was almost as good a substrate as acetylthiocholine. There was also cholinesterase activity in leech blood; this enzyme resembled butyrylcholinesterase. Sucrose gradient velocity sedimentation of Triton X-100 extracts of leech ganglia revealed a major peak of AChE activity at 6.5 S and a small peak at 4.3 S. The pattern of activity in the gradient was the same when intact ganglia were pretreated with echothiophate, although the total activity was reduced by 98%. Intact leech ganglia were stained for AChE activity with and without echothiophate pretreatment. In ganglia that had not been exposed to echothiophate, cholinesterase reaction product was deposited primarily on the ganglionic sheath. In pretreated ganglia, on the other hand, cholinesterase activity was concentrated within neuronal cell bodies. Electrophysiological identification and intracellular injection of the fluorescent dye Lucifer Yellow prior to staining were used to confirm that most AChE- positive cells were cholinergic motoneurons. Two previously unidentified neurons staining for AChE were shown to be motoneurons. These results demonstrate that cholinergic motoneurons can be differentiated from other cells in the leech nervous system by their high intracellular concentration of AChE.