11C-labeled choline ([11C]CHO) and 18F-fluorinated choline analogues have been demonstrated to be valuable tracers for in vivo imaging of neoplasms by means of positron emission tomography (PET). The objective of the present study was to evaluate whether deshydroxy-[18F]fluorocholine, ([18F]dOC), a non-metabolizable [18F]fluorinated choline analogue, can serve as a surrogate for cholines that are able to be phosphorylated and thus allow PET-imaging solely by addressing the choline transport system. The specificity of uptake of [18F]dOC was compared with that of [11C]choline ([11C]CHO) in cultured rat pancreatic carcinoma and PC-3 human prostate cancer cells in vitro. In addition, biodistribution of [18F]dOC and [11C]CHO was compared in AR42J- and PC-3 tumor bearing mice. The in vitro studies revealed that membrane transport of both compounds can be inhibited in a concentration dependent manner by similar concentrations of cold choline (IC50 [18F]dOC= 11 microM; IC50 [11C]CHO=13 microM. In vitro studies with PC-3 and AR42J cells revealed that the internalized fraction of [18F]dOC after 5 min incubation time is comparable to that of [11C]CHO, whereas the uptake of [11C]CHO was superior after 20 min incubation time. As for [11C]CHO, kidney and liver were also the primary sites of uptake for [18F]dOC in vivo. Biodistribution data after simultaneous injection of both tracers into AR42J tumor bearing mice revealed slightly higher tumor uptake for [18F]dOC at 10 min post-injection, whereas [11C]CHO uptake was higher at later time points. In conclusion, [18F]dOC is taken up into AR42J rat pancreatic carcinoma and PC-3 human prostate cancer cells by a choline specific transport system. Similar transport rates of [18F]dOC and [11C]CHO result in comparable cellular uptake levels at early time points. In contrast to [18F]dOC, which is transported but not intracellularly trapped, the choline kinase substrate [11C]CHO is transported into tumor cells and retained. Thus, the signal obtained by imaging early after injection is mainly reflecting transport, whereas a valid quantification of choline kinase activity needs imaging at later time points. Further studies have to clarify whether quantification of the transport capacity or the choline kinase activity result in a better pathophysiological correlate and thus is the more useful process for tumor characterization.