Reverse-phase HPLC with electrochemical detection (HPLC-EC) was used to separate and quantitate photochemically generated cholesterol hydroperoxides. The EC measurements were performed in the reduction mode under anaerobic conditions. When cholesterol-containing liposomes were irradiated in the presence of a phthalocyanine dye, at least four major oxidation products of cholesterol were detected by HPLC-EC:5 alpha-hydroperoxide (5 alpha-OOH), 6 beta-hydroperoxide (6 beta-OOH), 7 alpha-hydroperoxide (7 alpha-OOH), and 7 beta-hydroperoxide (7 beta-OOH). The detection limit for each compound was found to be approximately 25 pmol. Product identification was based on matching HPLC and TLC behavior of standards and on physical indicators (melting points and NMR chemical shifts). The cholesterol hydroperoxides were barely separated from EC-silent diol derivatives, which could be detected by 210 nm absorbance after reduction of the hydroperoxides with triphenylphosphine. Irradiation of a dye-sensitized natural membrane, the human erythrocyte ghost, also resulted in formation of 5 alpha-OOH, 6-OOH, and 7-OOH, as evidenced by HPLC-EC. Under the chromatographic conditions used, these species were well separated not only from one another but also from a family of at least six phospholipid hydroperoxides. These results illustrate the strengths of HPLC-EC as a relatively convenient, sensitive, and selective means of analyzing cholesterol hydroperoxides in biological samples.