Rats were maintained for 2 weeks on a low-fat basal diet (5% energy) and a diet from which 50% of the energy was derived from butter. Lipids were extracted from aortae and platelets and the fatty acid profiles of individual phospholipids were examined. Similar responses to dietary butter enrichment occurred in PI, PS, PE and PC fractions from either tissue: 20:4(n - 6) and all other n - 6 series longer-chain polyunsaturated fatty acids except 20:3(n - 6) decreased in percentage; all n - 3 series polyunsaturated fatty acids increased, including 20:5(n - 3) and 22:6(n - 3); n - 9 series polyunsaturated fatty acids, derived from 18:1(n - 9), increased. Despite the considerable redistribution of polyunsaturated fatty acids, the percentages of total polyunsaturated fatty acids in each phospholipid were, in every case, independent of diet. None of the changes were localized in a particular phospholipid fraction. Quantitation of fatty acids using heptadecanoic acid as an internal standard revealed that the concentrations of 20:4(n - 6) in platelet and aortic PE and PC was higher than in PI fractions. Therefore, in terms of substrate amount, it appears that PC and PE as well as PI have the potential to provide endogenous 20:4(n - 6) for oxygenation to the prostanoids thromboxane A2 and prostacyclin I2.