We investigated whether in healthy subjects L-tryptophan may serve as a precursor for the endogenous synthesis of the beta-carboline norharman. For this purpose subjects, smokers as well as non-smokers, received 0 or 1.2 g of an oral dose of tryptophan. Smokers started the experiment 2 h after cessation of smoking. Plasma levels of tryptophan and norharman were measured 100 and 125 min after the start of the experiment. The levels of both compounds were significantly higher in the group receiving tryptophan. Norharman concentrations in the plasma of smokers were significantly higher than in the non-smoking subjects under both experimental conditions. These results add some proof to the hypothesis that in humans tryptophan may serve as a precursor for the synthesis of norharman.