This report details the findings of a single-dose Phase I pharmacokinetic and toxicity study of a food-based formulation of lycopene in healthy adult male subjects. Five dosing groups (n = 5 per group) were sequentially treated with increasing doses of lycopene ranging from 10 to 120 mg. Blood samples were collected for a total of 28 days (672 h) after administration of single doses of lycopene. The mean time (t(max)) to reach maximum total lycopene concentration (C(max)) ranged from 15.6 to 32.6 h. The C(max) for total lycopene ranged between 4.03 and 11.27 microg/dl (0.075-0.210 microm). Mean AUC(0-96) and elimination half-life for total lycopene ranged from 214 to 655 microg h/dl (3.986-12.201 micromol h/l) and 28.1 and 61.6 h, respectively. The changes observed in lycopene exposure parameters (e.g., C(max) and AUC(0-96)) were not proportional to increments in dose, with larger increases observed at the lowest end of the dosing range (10-30 mg). Chylomicron lycopene was measured during the first 12 h with the differences observed among the dosing groups not reaching statistical significance. These findings may reflect a process of absorption that is saturable at very low dosing levels or may be explained by the large interindividual variability in attained lycopene concentrations that were observed within each dosing group. Pharmacokinetic parameters for trans- and cis-lycopene isomers were calculated and are reported here. The formulation was well tolerated with minimal side effects, which were mainly of gastrointestinal nature and of very low grade.