To assess the pharmacologic effects of aspirin on endogenous prostacyclin and thromboxane biosynthesis, 2,3-dinor-6-keto PGF1 alpha (PGI-M) and 2,3-dinor-thromboxane B2 (Tx-M) were measured in urine by mass spectrometry during continuing administration of aspirin. To define the relationship of aspirin intake to endogenous prostacyclin biosynthesis, sequential urines were initially collected in individuals prior to, during, and subsequent to administration of aspirin. Despite inter- and intra-individual variations, PGI-M excretion was significantly reduced by aspirin. However, full mass spectral identification confirmed continuing prostacyclin biosynthesis during aspirin therapy. Recovery of prostacyclin biosynthesis was incomplete 5 d after drug administration was discontinued. To relate aspirin intake to indices of thromboxane biosynthesis and platelet function, volunteers received 20 mg aspirin daily followed by 2,600 mg aspirin daily, each dose for 7 d in sequential weeks. Increasing aspirin dosage inhibited Tx-M excretion from 70 to 98% of pretreatment control values; platelet TxB2 formation from 4.9 to 0.5% and further inhibited platelet function. An extended study was performed to relate aspirin intake to both thromboxane and prostacyclin generation over a wide range of doses. Aspirin, in the range of 20 to 325 mg/d, resulted in a dose-dependent decline in both Tx-M and PGI-M excretion. At doses of 325-2,600 mg/d Tx-M excretion ranged from 5 to 3% of control values while PGI-M remained at 37-23% of control. 3 d after the last dose of aspirin (2,600 mg/d) mean Tx-M excretion had returned to 85% of control, whereas mean PGI-M remained at 40% of predosing values. Although the platelet aggregation response (Tmax) to ADP ex vivo was inhibited during administration of the lower doses of aspirin the aggregation response returned to control values during the final two weeks of aspirin administration (1,300 and 2,600 mg aspirin/d) despite continued inhibition of thromboxane biosynthesis. These results suggest that although chronic administration of aspirin results in inhibition of endogenous thromboxane and prostacyclin biosynthesis over a wide dose range, inhibition of thromboxane biosynthesis is more selective at 20 than at 2,600 mg aspirin/d. However, despite this, inhibition of platelet function is not maximal at the lower aspirin dosage. Doses of aspirin in excess of 80 mg/d resulted in substantial inhibition of endogenous prostacyclin biosynthesis. Thus, it is unlikely that any dose of aspirin can maximally inhibit thromboxane generation without also reducing endogenous prostacyclin biosynthesis. These results also indicate that recovery of endogenous prostacyclin biosynthesis is delayed following aspirin administration and that the usual effects of aspirin on platelet function ex vivo may be obscured during chronic aspirin administration in man.