The concentration of intracerebral glucose as a function of plasma glucose concentration was measured in rats by 13C NMR spectroscopy. Measurements were made in 20-60 min periods during the infusion of [1-13C]D-glucose, when intracerebral and plasma glucose levels were at steady state. Intracerebral glucose was found to vary from 0.7 to 19 mumol g-1 wet weight as the steady-state plasma glucose concentration was varied from 3 to 62 mM. A symmetric Michaelis-Menten model was fit to the brain and plasma glucose data with and without an unsaturable component, yielding the transport parameters Km, Vmax, and Kd. If it is assumed that all transport is saturable (Kd = 0), then Km = 13.9 +/- 2.7 mM and Vmax/Vgly = 5.8 +/- 0.8, where Vgly is the rate of brain glucose consumption. If an unsaturable component of transport is included, the transport parameters are Km = 9.2 +/- 4.7 mM, Vmax/Vgly = 5.3 +/- 1.5, and Kd/Vgly = 0.0088 +/- 0.0075 ml mumol-1. It was not possible to distinguish between the cases of Kd = 0 and Kd greater than 0, because the goodness of fit was similar for both. However, the results in both cases indicate that the unidirectional rate of glucose influx exceeds the glycolytic rate in the basal state by 2.4-fold and as a result should not be rate limiting for normal glucose utilization.