The long-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA, 20:5n-3), docosahexaenoic acid (DHA, 22:6n-3), and arachidonic acid (AA, 20:4n-6), are critical for health. These PUFAs can be synthesized in liver from their plant-derived precursors, α-linolenic acid (α-LNA, 18:3n-3) and linoleic acid (LA, 18:2n-6). Vegetarians and vegans may have suboptimal long-chain n-3 PUFA status, and the extent of the conversion of α-LNA to EPA and DHA by the liver is debatable. We quantified liver conversion of DHA and other n-3 PUFAs from α-LNA in rats fed a DHA-free but α-LNA (n-3 PUFA) adequate diet, and compared results to conversion of LA to AA. [U-(13)C]LA or [U-(13)C]α-LNA was infused intravenously for 2h at a constant rate into unanesthetized rats fed a DHA-free α-LNA adequate diet, and published equations were used to calculate kinetic parameters. The conversion coefficient k(⁎) of DHA from α-LNA was much higher than for AA from LA (97.2×10(-3) vs. 10.6×10(-3)min(-1)), suggesting that liver elongation-desaturation is more selective for n-3 PUFA biosynthesis on a per molecule basis. The net daily secretion rate of DHA, 20.3μmol/day, exceeded the reported brain DHA consumption rate by 50-fold, suggesting that the liver can maintain brain DHA metabolism with an adequate dietary supply solely of α-LNA. This infusion method could be used in vegetarians or vegans to determine minimal daily requirements of EPA and DHA in humans.