Taurine deficiency in patients on long-term parenteral nutrition may be involved in cholestasis. We aimed to assess plasma taurine and tauro-conjugated bile acids in adults with short-bowel syndrome and their response to intravenous taurine. Thirty-two adult patients, who had been on taurine-free parenteral nutrition for a mean of 59 (SE 14) months for short-bowel syndrome, were studied retrospectively. In a second study, a subgroup of ten patients with chronic cholestasis received taurine-enriched (6.0 (SE 0.6) mg/kg per d) parenteral nutrition for 55 (SE 13) months. Post-absorptive plasma taurine and bile acid concentrations were measured and liver function tests routinely sampled. At baseline, plasma taurine was lower in patients with a jejunal length of less than 35 cm (group A, n 16) than in those with a jejunal length of 35 cm or more (group B, n 16): 43 (SE 3) v. 58 (SE 4) micromol/l (P=0.01). The groups were no different in terms of chronic cholestasis (12/16 v.13/16 patients), total bile acids (26 (SE 13) v.14 (SE 5) micromol/l) or the ratio of tauro-conjugated:glyco-conjugated bile acids (5 (SE 2) v.8(SE 4)%, usual range 30-60%). After supplementation, there was an increase in plasma taurine level (63 (SE 8) v. 43 (SE 4), P=0.007) but was no change in either total bile acids or the ratio of tauro-conjugated: glyco-conjugated bile acids. There was a significant decrease in aspartate aminotransferase level. Long-term parenteral nutrition for short-bowel syndrome is associated with an impaired tauro-conjugation of bile acids (enterohepatic pool), irrespective of plasma taurine level (systemic pool) and despite long-term taurine intravenous supplementation.