N1-Methylnicotinamide (NMN) is an endogenous cationic metabolite of nicotinamide (niacine, vitamine PP) whose renal clearance reflects both the capacity of the renal tubular transport system to secrete organic cations and renal plasma flow. NMN is present in human plasma and urine at the 1-117-ng ml(-1) and 0.5-25-microg ml(-1) concentration range, respectively, and its level depends notably on pathophysiological (age, renal or hepatic diseases) conditions. We report the optimization and validation of an HPLC method for the measurement of endogenous NMN in biological fluids after derivatization into a fluorescent compound. Plasma is first deproteinized with TCA 20% and the urine diluted 1:10 with HCI 10(-4) M prior to the derivatization procedure, which includes a condensation reaction of NMN with acetophenone in NaOH at 0 degrees C, followed by dehydration in formic acid and subsequent formation of the fluorescent 1,6-naphthyridine derivatives after heating samples in a boiling water bath. The synthetic homologous derivative N1-ethylnicotinamide (NEN) reacts similarly and is added as internal standard into the biological fluid. The reaction mixture is subjected to reverse phase high performance liquid chromatography on a Nucleosil 100-C18 column using a mobile phase (acetonitrile 22%, triethylamine 0.5%, 0.01 M sodium heptanesulfonate adjusted to pH 3.2), delivered isocratically at a flow rate of 1 ml min(-1), NMN and NEN are detected at 7.8 and 10 min by spectrofluorimetry with excitation and emission wavelengths set at 366 and 418 nm, respectively. The addition-calibration method is used with plasma and urine pools. Calibration curves (using the internal standard method) are linear (r2 > 0.997) at concentrations up to 109 ng ml(-1) and 15.7 microg ml(-1) in plasma and urine, respectively. Both intra- and inter-assay precision of plasma control samples at 10, 50 and 90 ng ml(-1) were lower than 3.3% and concentrations not deviating more than 2.7% from their nominal values. In urine intra- and inter-assay CVs of control samples at 1, 5 and 9 microg ml(-1) are lower than 8.3%, with concentrations not deviating more than -9.0 to +11.8% from their nominal values. This analytical method has therefore the required sensitivity and selectivity to measure NMN in plasma and urine, enabling the non-invasive determination of the tubular secretory capacity of the kidney and the renal plasma flow.