A high-performance gel permeation chromatography method was developed for the analysis of proanthocyanidins. The isocratic method consisted of two porous polystyrene-divinylbenzene columns (300 x 7.5 mm each, 5 microm, 100 and 500 A individual pore size) and a mobile phase consisting of N,N-dimethylformamide containing 1% (v/v) acetic acid, 5% (v/v) water and 0.15 M lithium chloride. The flow-rate was maintained at 1 ml/min, with a column temperature of 60 degrees C and with detection at 280 nm. The method was used to analyze proanthocyanidin fractions of increasing molecular mass and from different plant tissues. The average molecular mass of proanthocyanidin fractions as determined by acid catalysis in the presence of phloroglucinol, related well with their gel permeation chromatography column retention, yet significant differences in the retention properties between individual plant tissue isolates existed. Proanthocyanidin compositional differences between isolates may explain these differences. A second-order calibration curve was generated from fractionated grape seed proanthocyanidins and this curve was used to analyze grape seed proanthocyanidins isolated from grapes harvested at extremes of maturity.