The total hyaluronan content has been determined in rats. The animals were frozen and sectioned in a cryostat before digestion with papain and pronase. The hyaluronan content was determined by a specific radioassay and it was found that 250 g rats contained 40-60 mg of the polysaccharide. The recovery from the preparation procedure was close to 100%, as determined from tracer experiments. More than half of the hyaluronan was found in skin, approximately one quarter in the skeleton and supporting structures and less than one tenth in skeletal muscle. Based on calculated lymph flow and lymph concentration of hyaluronan, it seems that a significant fraction of the total hyaluronan in skin (greater than 1%) is removed via the lymphatics in a 24 h period. An attempt was made to isolate undegraded hyaluronan from rat skin by gentle methods giving full recovery in order to estimate the molecular weight of the polysaccharide. Hyaluronan was recovered quantitatively, but as determined from added tracer, it had been degraded. Correction for the estimated degradation gave a molecular weight of several millions for the endogenous hyaluronan.