Animals fed diets lacking the amino acid taurine have low plasma and tissue levels of taurine and ultimately have retinal dysfunction. Since parenteral nutrition does not ordinarily provide taurine, we looked for evidence of taurine deficiency in 21 children and 23 adults undergoing long-term parenteral nutrition at home for an average of 27 +/- 23 (S.D.) months. The fasting plasma taurine level was reduced in children as compared with controls (26 +/- 13 vs. 57 +/- 16 mumol per liter, P less than 0.001). In adults with less than 25 per cent intestinal absorption of the recommended caloric intake, the plasma taurine level was also significantly reduced and correlated inversely with the duration of parenteral nutrition. Electroretinograms were abnormal in each of eight children who were examined. Addition of taurine to the intravenous solutions restored plasma levels to normal in four children; the electroretinograms of three of these children also became normal. The plasma taurine level became abnormally low again in two of three children one year after the intravenous taurine was discontinued. We conclude that children and possibly adults receiving long-term parenteral nutrition have a nutritional requirement for taurine.