We measured basal cytosolic concentration of free Mg2+ ([Mg2+]i) in platelets from 30 healthy volunteers by using mag-fura-2, a new fluorescent Mg2+ indicator. The mean [Mg2+]i was 381 +/- 22 mumol/L, with values ranging from 226 to 771 mumol/L. The day-to-day intrasubject coefficient of variation was relatively small (3.6%). [Mg2+]i was significantly higher in men than in women (430 +/- 38 vs 332 +/- 17 mumol/L, p < 0.03), and was not correlated with age. There was no significant relation between platelet [Mg2+]i and serum total Mg concentration. The results indicate that the gender but not age may decide intracellular Mg2+ status. In addition, the mechanisms that regulate [Mg2+]i may be independent of those that influence the extracellular concentration of Mg.