OBJECTIVES: Evaluate the age-dependency of ciliary beat frequency (CBF) in biopsies after ciliogenesis in culture. STUDY DESIGN: Retrospective analysis of CBF and ciliary ultrastructure in biopsies and after ciliogenesis from 203 individuals, aged 3 months to 74 years. METHODS: All patients with successful culture were included. Ciliogenesis was obtained using the sequential monolayer-suspension culture technique for dissociated nasal epithelial cells. CBF was measured using computerized microscope photometry. Secondary ultrastructural abnormalities were evaluated in transmission electron microscopy. RESULTS: There was no correlation between age and CBF, in either the biopsies (7.0 +/- 2.6 Hz; n = 113) or after ciliogenesis in culture (8.1 +/- 1.3 Hz; n = 203). Even in individuals older than 70 years, CBF was normal in bioptic material (6.7 +/- 1.7 Hz) and after ciliogenesis in culture (7.9 +/- 1.0 Hz). Also, in individuals less than 1 year of age CBF was normal in biopsies as well as after ciliogenesis. CBF correlated inversely with the percentage of secondary ultrastructural abnormalities in the biopsies as seen with transmission electron microscopy: 8.1 +/- 1.8 Hz when ciliary ultrastructure was normal and 3.5 +/- 3.3 Hz in cases of severe secondary ciliary dyskinesia. After ciliogenesis in culture, ciliary ultrastructure was always normal, as was CBF. CONCLUSION: CBF is age independent but correlates with secondary ultrastructural abnormalities. CBF after ciliogenesis in culture is the intrinsic one.