Sulforaphane is a naturally occurring isothiocyanate with promising chemopreventive activity. An analytical method, utilising liquid chromatography-MS/MS, which allows the determination of sulforaphane in small volumes of rat plasma following exposure to low dietary doses, was developed and validated, and employed to determine its absolute bioavailability and pharmacokinetic characteristics. Rats were treated with either a single intravenous dose of sulforaphane (2.8 micromol/kg) or single oral doses of 2.8, 5.6 and 28 mumol/kg. Sulforaphane plasma concentrations were determined in blood samples withdrawn from the rat tail at regular time intervals. Following intravenous administration, the plasma profile of sulforaphane was best described by a two-compartment pharmacokinetic model, with a prolonged terminal phase. Sulforaphane was very well and rapidly absorbed and displayed an absolute bioavailability of 82 %, which, however, decreased at the higher doses, indicating a dose-dependent pharmacokinetic behaviour; similarly, Cmax values did not rise proportionately to the dose. At the highest dose used, the rate of absorption constant k(ab), biological half-life t(1/2) and apparent volume of distribution decreased significantly. It is concluded that in the rat orally administered sulforaphane is rapidly absorbed, achieving high absolute bioavailability at low dietary doses, but dose-dependent pharmacokinetics was evident, with bioavailability decreasing with increasing dose.