InsP(6) is abundant in cereals and legumes. InsP(6) and lower inositol phosphates, in particular InsP(3), participate in important intracellular processes. In addition, InsP(6) possess significant health benefits, such as anti-cancer effect, kidney stones prevention, lowering serum cholesterol. Because of the insensitivity of existing methods for determination of non-radiolabeled inositol phosphates, little is known about the natural occurrence, much less on the concentrations of InsP(6) and InsP(3) in biological samples. Using gas chromatography-mass detection analysis of HPLC chromatographic fractions, we report a measurement of unlabeled total InsP(3) and InsP(6) (a) as they occur within cells culture, tissues, and plasma, and (b) their changes depending on the presence of exogenous InsP(6). When rats were fed on a purified diet in which InsP(6) was undetectable (AIN-76A) the levels of InsP(6) in brain were 3.35 +/- 0.57 (SE) micromol.kg(-1) and in plasma 0.023 +/- 0.008 (SE) micromol.l(-1). The presence of InsP(6) in diet dramatically influenced its levels in brain and in plasma. When rats were given an InsP(6)-sufficient diet (AIN-76A + 1% InsP(6)), the levels of InsP(6) were about 100-fold higher in brain tissues (36.8 +/- 1.8 (SE)) than in plasma (0.29 +/- 0.02 (SE)); InsP(6) concentrations were 8.5-fold higher than total InsP(3) concentrations in either plasma (0.033 +/- 0.012 (SE)) and brain (4.21 +/- 0.55 (SE)). When animals were given an InsP(6)-poor diet (AIN-76A only), there was a 90% decrease in InsP(6) content in both brain tissue and plasma (p < 0.001); however, there was no change in the level of total InsP(3). In non-stimulated malignant cells (MDA-MB 231 and K562) the InsP(6) contents were 16.2 +/- 9.1 (SE) micromol.kg(-1) for MDA-MB 231 cells and 15.6 +/- 2.7 (SE) for K 562 cells. These values were around 3-fold higher than those of InsP(3) (4.8 +/- 0.5 micromol.kg(-1) and 6.9 +/- 0.1 (SE) for MDA-MB 231 and K562 cells respectively). Treatment of malignant cells with InsP(6) resulted in a 2-fold increase in the intracellular concentrations of total InsP(3) (9.5 +/- 1.3 (SE) and 10.8 +/- 1.0 (SE) micromol.kg(-1) for MDA-MB 231 and K562 cells respectively, p < 0.05), without changes in InsP(6) levels. These results indicate that exogenous InsP(6) directly affects its physiological levels in plasma and brain of normal rats without changes on the total InsP(3) levels. Although a similar fluctuation of InsP(6) concentration was not seen in human malignant cell lines following InsP(6) treatment, an increased intracellular levels of total InsP(3) was clearly observed.