Five subjects who participated in an earlier study (Lelo et al., 1986b) of the comparative pharmacokinetics of caffeine (CA) and its primary monodemethylated metabolites paraxanthine (PX), theobromine (TB) and theophylline (TP) were administered CA to steady-state. Using areas under the plasma concentration-time curves for each of the dimethylxanthines derived from CA in the steady-state study and individual plasma clearances of PX, TB and TP determined in the previous study, the fractional conversion of CA to PX, TB and TP and the individual partial clearances of CA have been defined. The mean (+/- s.d.) fractional conversion of CA to PX, TB and TP was 79.6 +/- 21.0%, 10.8 +/- 2.4% and 3.7 +/- 1.3%, respectively. When only demethylation pathways are considered PX, TB and TP accounted for 83.9 +/- 5.4%, 12.1 +/- 4.1% and 4.0 +/- 1.4%, respectively of the CA demethylations. The mean partial clearance of CA to PX was approximately 8-fold and 23-fold greater than those to TB and TP respectively. These data confirm earlier reports that PX is the major metabolite of CA in humans but suggest that PX formation is quantitatively more important than previously believed.