The effect of genotype on the size of adipocytes and on the lipogenic enzyme activities in different fat depots in Asturiana, Avilena, Morucha, Parda Alpina, Pirenaica, Retinta and Rubia Gallega steers was studied (six animals per breed). Steers were weaned at about 6 to 8 months of age and 220 to 260 kg live weight (LW). During the fattening period the steers were given commercial concentrates and straw, both ad libitum, until slaughter at 470 kg average LW. Adipocyte size and activity of the following lipogenic enzymes were studied: glycerol 3-phosphate dehydrogenase (G 3-PDH); fatty acid synthase (FAS); NADP-malate dehydrogenase (MD), glucose 6-phosphate dehydrogenase (G 6-PDH) and NADP-isocitrate dehydrogenase (ICDH) in the omental, perirenal, subcutaneous and intermuscular adipose depots. Also the perirenal fat depot was removed and weighed and the 10th rib was dissected. Differences between breeds were significant for the amount of fat in the different adipose depots (P < 0·001), for adipocyte size (except in intermuscular depot) and for G 3-PDH, FAS, MD, ICDH (P < 0·001) and G 6-PDH (P < 0·01). In general, steers of breeds that had more fat also had bigger adipocytes and higher lipogenic enzyme activities. In this way, Asturiana breed (lean breed) had smaller adipocytes and lower lipogenic enzyme activities than Morucha breed (fatter breed). Finally, adipocytes from the perirenal depot were the biggest and showed the highest G 3-PDH and FAS activities while adipocytes from the intermuscular depot had the smallest size and the lowest lipogenic activities.