PAHs in five-stage size segregated aerosol particles were investigated in 2003 at urban and suburban sites of Beijing. The total concentration of 17 PAHs ranged between 0.84 and 152 ng m(-3), with an average of 116 ng m(-3), in urban area were 1.1-6.6 times higher than those measured in suburban area. It suggested a serious pollution level of PAHs in Beijing. PAHs concentrations increased with decreasing the ambient temperature. Approximately 68.4-84.7% of PAHs were adsorbed on particles having aerodynamic diameter 2.0 microm. Nearly bimodal distribution was found for PAHs with two and three rings, more than four rings PAHs, however, followed unimodal distribution. The overall mass median diameter (MMD) for PAHs decreased with increasing molecular weight. Diagnostic ratios and normalized distribution of PAHs indicated that the PAHs in aerosol particles were mainly derived from fossil fuel combustion. Coal combustion for domestic heating was probably major contributor to the higher PAHs loading in winter, whereas PAHs in other seasons displayed characteristic of mixed source of gasoline and diesel vehicle exhaust. Biomass burning and road dust are minor contributors to the PAHs composition of these aerosol particles. Except for source emission, other factors, such as meteorological condition, photochemical decay, and transportation from source to the receptor site, should to be involved in the generation of the observed patterns.