Free vulpecholic acid (1 alpha,3 alpha,7 alpha-trihydroxy-5 beta-cholan-24-oic) is the major biliary component of the Australian opossum (Trichosurus vulpecula), accompanied only by a few percent of its taurine conjugate. In order to exclude a microbial involvement in its formation (i.e., secondary origin) four sets of experiments were performed. It was found that a) the level of vulpecholic acid remained unchanged in the bile of opossums fed with neomycin and kanamycin for 7 days prior to bile collection; b) it also remained unchanged after long bile drainage; c) in opossums prepared with biliary cannula, intraportally injected [24-14C]chenodeoxycholic acid was transformed to [24-14C]vulpecholic acid; and d) in a similar experiment, the detectable transformation of [1 alpha,2 alpha-3H2]cholesterol to vulpecholic acid was observed. In experiment c) 28-66% of the administered radioactivity was secreted in 2 h in the form of free biliary vulpecholic and chenodeoxycholic acids. Only a trace amount of the corresponding taurine conjugates (approximately 0.4%) was formed. Moreover, rapidly declining specific radioactivity of the unconjugated chenodeoxycholic acid indicated its probable participation in the native formation of vulpecholic acid.