Plasma levels of glutamic acid and leukocyte glutamate dehydrogenase (GDH) activity were determined in patients with primary generalized epilepsy, patients with partial epilepsy and in the first-degree relatives of these subjects. The results show a significant increase in plasma glutamic acid in both groups of patients and their relatives compared to non-epileptic controls. The leukocyte GDH activity in the patients and the relatives was not different from controls. The data support a genetic basis for plasma glutamic acid increase in both primary generalized and partial epilepsy and are compatible with the multifactorial mode of inheritance of these disorders. This is the first study showing a familial plasma glutamic acid increase in epilepsy in a Japanese population.