A sensitive assay for thiamine suitable for clinical use has been developed. It is based on precolumn oxidation of thiamine to thiochrome followed by HPLC-separation and fluorescence detection. The assay is applicable to various biological materials, including human plasma. The minimum amount detectable was 5 fmol, minimum plasma concentration 0.5 nmol/l and minimum sample volume 0.3 ml plasma. Each chromatographic run took 3 min. Inter- and intra-assay relative standard deviations (RSD) were 8.3% and 6.3%, respectively, at a stock plasma concentration of 10.8 nmol/l. At 38.8 nmol/l, interassay RSD was reduced to 3.4%. The recovery of 5 nmol/l added thiamine was 102 (SD +/- 17)%, that of 30 nmol/l was 94 +/- 5%. Plasma levels in 91 volunteers ranged from 6.6 to 43 nmol/l, showing a log normal distribution with a median of 11.6 nmol/l. Thiamine kinetics were studied in plasma and urine from 8 men after intravenous and oral doses of 50, 100 and 200 mg thiamine hydrochloride. In all individuals, nonlinear renal elimination kinetics were demonstrated by plotting the fractional amount of thiamine excreted unchanged in urine against the corresponding area under the plasma concentration-time curve.