We investigated whether the amount of dietary linoleic acid (LA) (as corn oil) influences the incorporation of dietary eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) or docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) in tissue phospholipids and the prostanoid biosynthesis. Rats were fed four different levels of corn oil (at a total dietary fat level of either 2.5%, 5%, 10% or 20%); at each corn oil level, two groups of rats were supplemented with either EPA and DHA (200 mg/day) during 6 weeks, and compared with a group receiving oleic acid. The phospholipid fatty acid composition of liver, kidney and aorta showed, as expected, that the incorporation of EPA was highly suppressed by increasing the content of dietary linoleic acid in the diets. On the other hand, DHA was almost unaffected by the amounts of (n - 6) fatty acids in the diets. These results indicate that EPA levels but not DHA levels in tissue phospholipids were influenced by the competing dietary (n - 6) fatty acids. The tissue arachidonate content was similar under the various dietary linoleic acid conditions, but feeding EPA or DHA lowers the AA content. Moreover, the amount of dietary linoleic acid did not significantly influence the prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production in stimulated aortic rings. However, PGE2 synthesis was significantly decreased in the groups treated with either EPA or DHA. Thromboxane B2 levels in serum followed a similar pattern. It is suggested that an increase of dietary (n - 3) PUFAs is more efficient to reduce (n - 6) eicosanoid formation than a decrease of dietary (n - 6) fatty acids.