The seasonal variability of the intracellular free amino acid (FAA) concentration was studied in 5 Macoma balthica populations and 7 Mytilus spp. populations along their European distribution. Because of the well known physiological role of FAA as organic osmolytes for salinity induced cell volume regulation in marine osmoconformers, FAA variations were compared in bivalve populations that were exposed to high vs. low intraannual salinity fluctuations. In general, seasonal FAA variations were more pronounced in M. balthica than in Mytilus spp. In both bivalve taxa from different locations in the Baltic Sea, highest FAA concentrations were found in autumn and winter and low FAA concentrations were measured in summer. Seasonal patterns were less pronounced in both taxa at locations with constant salinity conditions. In contrast to Baltic Sea populations, Atlantic and Mediterranean bivalves showed high FAA concentrations in summer and low values in winter, regardless of seasonal salinity fluctuations. Significant seasonal FAA variations at locations with constant salinity conditions showed that salinity appeared not to be the main factor in determining FAA concentrations. The seasonal patterns of the main FAA pool components, i.e. alanine, glycine and taurine, are discussed in the context of seasonal variations in environmental factors (salinity, temperature) and physiological state (glycogen content, reproductive stage).