This study investigated the speciation and bioavailability of selenium in yeast-based intervention agents from multiple manufacturers from several time points. Sources of selenized yeast included Nutrition 21 (San Diego, CA), which supplied the Nutritional Prevention of Cancer (NPC) Trial from 1981-1996; Cypress Systems (Fresno, CA; 1997-1999); and Pharma Nord (Vejle, Denmark; 1999-2000), which supplied the Prevention of Cancer by Intervention by Selenium (PRECISE) Trial pilot studies. The low-molecular-selenium species were liberated from the samples by proteolytic hydrolysis followed by separation by ion exchange liquid chromatography and detection by inductively coupled plasma-mass spectrometry. The results for the NPC tablets showed that selenomethionine, together with 3 unidentified selenium compounds, were predominant in the sample hydrolysates. The relative amounts of the 4 selenium species varied (p < 0.05) among several of the 7 tablet batches used during the course of the NPC Trial. In comparison, 5 batches of more recently produced selenized yeasts, which were used as a source of selenium in the PRECISE and other trials, contained less of the unknown compounds and more selenomethionine at 54-60% of the total selenium in the yeasts. One batch of yeast, however (from 1985), which originated from the same producer as the yeast used in the NPC tablets, contained only 27% of selenium in the sample as selenomethionine. Human subjects receiving 200 microg selenium/day in the UK PRECISE Pilot Trial showed a higher concentration (p < 0.01) and higher increase from baseline in plasma selenium than did the same dosage used in the NPC Trial. Differences in intake, speciation, or bioavailability of selenium from the yeast-based supplements in the population groups studied may explain this. Furthermore, the selenium concentration in whole blood from the Danish PRECISE Pilot Trial was higher (p < 0.001) than that obtained with synthetic L-selenomethionine in a comparable group of Danes, both groups having been treated with 300 microg selenium/day.