A sensitive and simple liquid chromatographic assay with fluorometric detection for unconjugated and acetylated polyamines in biological fluids is described. After precolumn derivatization with dansyl chloride, unconjugated polyamines and acetylated polyamines were extracted by elution from a Bond-Elut C18 column and then separated on a reversed-phase column with gradient elution. The complete analysis of unconjugated putrescine, spermidine, and spermine in either hydrolyzed urine, cerebrospinal fluid or tissue could be accomplished within 20-26 min, while the simultaneous analysis of unconjugated polyamines and monoacetylpolyamines could be completed within 40 min. Unhydrolyzed urine and cerebrospinal fluid required a Bond-Elut cation-exchange clean-up before dansylation. Standard curves for the assay were linear up to 20 nmol/ml, and the within-day and day-to-day coefficients of variation were between 1.1 and 4.6% and between 1.6 and 11.8%, respectively. Results obtained with the method were compared with results obtained with a well established modified amino acid analyzer method for urine, tissue and cerebrospinal fluid samples. The correlation coefficients between these two methods were in the range 0.933-0.996. Detection limits between 50 and 150 fmol were achieved for unconjugated and acetylated polyamines. Of more than twenty drugs and amines tested for possible interference with the assay, only normetanephrine was found to have the same retention time as the internal standard 1,6-diaminohexane.