Arachidonic Acid (AA) released from membrane phospholipids by phospholipase A2 during cell activation is the major polyunsaturated fatty acid precursor in mammals for the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways. Eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), a major polyunsaturated fatty acid in fish oils competes with AA for these enzymes. The resulting products from EPA are generally less potent than the corresponding AA metabolites which may explain the beneficial effects of this oil in reducing thrombotic and inflammatory responses. This study compares the incorporation of 14C-AA into leukocyte phospholipids and its release and metabolism by the cyclooxygenase and lipoxygenase pathways in rats fed a 'Max EPA' fish oil rich diet (EPA group) and a hydrogenated coconut/safflower oil control diet. More than 75% of radiolabel was incorporated into leukocytes with no difference seen between dietary groups. Upon stimulation with calcium ionophore, the EPA group released significantly more radiolabelled AA than the control group. The EPA diet showed a significant increase in the formation of 5-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid and 6-keto-prostaglandin F1 alpha but no difference was seen in leukotriene B4 formation. The majority of radiolabel released was free AA, this being significantly higher in the EPA group than in the control. The percentage of radiolabel remaining after stimulation in phosphatidylglycerol, phosphatidylethanolamine and neutral lipids was significantly less in EPA fed rats. As the release and metabolism of endogenous AA may not be the same as 14C-AA, these results do not necessarily indicate that the mass of AA available for eicosanoid biosynthesis has been altered by the EPA diet.