Investigations were carried out on two lines of human melanomas (MF; n = 12 and EE; n = 13) xenografted in nude mice. The tumours were characterised by a similar vascular supply but showed a pronounced difference in the rate of volume growth and in the radiobiologically hypoxic fraction. The distribution of ATP, glucose and lactate in the tumours was investigated using quantitative bioluminescence and single photon imaging. Concentrations of the metabolites were obtained as global values for the entire tumour mass, in regions with densely packed, structurally intact tumour cells ('viable zones'), in areas with necrosis, stromal cells and fibrous material ('necrotic zones') and in adjacent normal tissue. In all melanomas investigated glucose concentrations were significantly lower and lactate concentrations were significantly higher than in normal tissue. In contrast, no significant differences for ATP were detected. ATP and glucose concentrations were significantly less in necrotic than in viable tumour zones, whereas lactate concentrations were nearly equal in these tumour parts. Corresponding results were obtained in central versus peripheral tumour zones. There was no dependency of global or regional metabolite concentrations on tumour size within the volume range 110-1470 mm3. Based on this lack of dependency, metabolic concentrations were averaged over the whole tumour size range. Metabolite concentrations were not significantly different either globally or regionally between the two tumour entities investigated, a finding which held true for all three metabolites registered. Thus, metabolite distributions apparently mirror the similarity in vascularity of MF and EE melanomas rather than reflecting intrinsic properties with regard to tumour growth rates or susceptibility to radiation.