The interrelations between linoleic acid (LA) metabolites and fish oil fatty acids were studied. Sprague-Dawley rats (200-220 g) were fed a fat-free semisynthetic diet supplemented with 10% (by weight) of different combinations of evening primrose oil (EPO), a rich source of LA and gamma-linolenic acid, and polepa (POL), a marine oil rich in eicosapentaenoic (EPA) and docosahexaenoic (DHA) acids. The combinations of supplement were as follows: 9% EPO-1% POL, 8% EPO-2% POL, 7% EPO-3% POL, 6% EPO-4% POL and 5% EPO-5% POL. After two weeks on the respective diets, the animals were killed, and the fatty acid compositions of liver and plasma phospholipids were examined. The results showed that animals fed higher proportions of POL consistently contained higher levels of dihomo-gamma-linolenic acid (DGLA) (p less than 0.05), a metabolite of LA and GLA, and lower levels of arachidonic acid (AA) (p less than 0.01), a metabolite of DGLA through delta-5-desaturation. Thus, an inverse relationship between AA/DGLA ratio and EPA levels was found to exist (r = -0.765 in plasma and -0.792 in liver). However, there was no such relationship between AA/DGLA ratio and DHA levels. This result suggested that EPA but not DHA in fish oil exerts an inhibitory effect on the conversion of DGLA to AA.