Procollagen type I carboxyterminal and type III aminoterminal peptide concentrations were measured in sera of 60 patients with alcoholic and 14 with nonalcoholic liver disease to study whether these assays are useful as clinical tests to differentiate various stages of alcoholic liver injury. Both propeptides were markedly elevated in alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis: procollagen type III peptide in 90% and type I peptide in 60-80% of these patients. Moderately increased values were found less frequently in patients with fatty liver. These tests did not differentiate patients with simple fatty liver from those with fatty liver and early fibrosis. There was a significant difference in serum procollagen type III peptide between fatty liver and both alcoholic hepatitis and cirrhosis (p less than 0.001), and in type I peptide between fatty liver and alcoholic hepatitis (p less than 0.005). Although serum peptide values correlated with the degree of liver fibrosis, appreciable overlap of values was found between the various groups. The peptide concentrations also seemed to be related to the degree of hepatic inflammation, and the highest values were observed in a subgroup of patients with alcoholic hepatitis in whom numerous Mallory bodies were found. The data suggest that in alcoholic liver diseases, serum collagen propeptide determination may be useful in diagnosing severe alcoholic hepatitis.