31P magnetic resonance spectroscopy (MRS) in vivo and in vitro was used to study modulation of host liver (HL) metabolism in rats bearing the MAT-LyLu variant of the Dunning prostate tumour. Animals were inoculated either with 10(6) or 10(7) MAT-LyLu cells, or with saline to serve as controls. Carcass weight in tumour-bearing (TB) animals decreased despite similar food and water intake in both groups. Absence of metastatic tumour cells from HL of all TB animals was confirmed by histological examination. Twenty-one days after inoculation, 31P MRS showed a 2.5-fold increase in [Pi]/[ATP] ratios in HL in vivo (P < 0.001) which was confirmed by 31P MRS of liver extracts in vitro (P < 0.005). Phosphodiester to ATP ratios were significantly increased (P < 0.05) in HL in vivo, but absolute PDE levels were similar in both groups. Phosphomonoester to ATP ratios did not change, although absolute phosphomonoester levels in HL were reduced by -41% (not significant). In HL extracts in vitro, sharp reductions in the levels of glucose-6-phosphate (P < 0.05), fructose-6-phosphate (P = 0.05), phosphocholine (P < 0.001), glycerophosphocholine (P < 0.001), and glycerophosphoethanolamine (P < 0.001) were observed. Electron microscopy revealed increased amounts and altered distribution of rough endoplasmic reticulum in HL. These findings show that experimental prostate cancer significantly affects hepatic phosphorylation status, phospholipid metabolism, and gluconeogenesis in the host animal, and demonstrate the value of combined MRS in vivo and in vitro in monitoring HL metabolism in cancer.