We examined the effects of cytidine (5?)-diphosphocholine (CDP-choline) on plasma levels of cytidine, choline, and unchanged CDP-choline among normal volunteers receiving the substance orally or intravenously, and rats receiving it intravenously. Two hours after a single oral dose (2g), plasma choline levels were increased by 48% and plasma cytidine by 136%. Among subjects receiving three doses (2g each) at two-hour intervals, plasma choline peaked (30% over baseline) 4 h after the initial CDP-choline dose, while plasma cytidine levels continued to increase for at lest 6 h, at which time they were five times basal levels (P < 0.01). Intravenously-administered CDP-choline was rapidly hydrolysed, in both the human and the rat. In humans given the CDP-choline by infusion over 30 min, plasma CDP-choline fell to undetectable levels almost immediately after the end of the infusion period; plasma choline and cytidine peaked at that time, but their concentrations remained significantly elevated for at least 6 h. In rats given a bolus injection of CDP-choline, five minutes earlier, the unchanged compound was also undetectable in plasma, while plasma cytidine levels increased markedly and remained elevated for at least 60 min. These observations show that CDP-choline is converted to at least two major circulating metabolites, choline and cytidine. Since both of these compounds are used in the biosynthesis of phosphatidylcholine, both may be involved in the long-term effects of the CDP-choline.