The rate of secretion of prostacyclin (PGI2) into the circulation of normal man was estimated by measurement of the 2,3-dinor-6-keto-PGF1 alpha (D) and 15-keto-13,14-dihydro-2,3-dinor-6-keto-PGF1 alpha (KDD) urinary metabolites of PGI2. Subjects received 6-h intravenous infusions of vehicle alone and PGI2 at 0.1, 0.4, and 2.0 ng/kg per min in random order. The fractional elimination of the metabolites was independent of the rate of PGI2 infusion. 6.8 +/- 0.3% of the infused PGI2 appeared as D and 4.1 +/- 0.4% as KDD. The regression of infused PGI2 upon the quantities of the two metabolites excreted in excess of control values permitted estimation of the rate of entry of endogenous PGI2 into the circulation corresponding to a given quantity of metabolite excreted. Using the quantities excreted in the 24 h from commencement of the infusions the estimated rates were 0.08 +/- 0.02 ng/kg per min from D and 0.10 +/- 0.03 from KDD. Studies with exogenous PGI2 suggest that infusion rates 2--4 ng/kg per min are required to achieve the threshold for inhibition of platelet function (ex vivo) in man. Although not precluding a role for PGI2 in local platelet-vessel wall interactions, the much lower estimates obtained in this study suggest that endogenous PGI2 is unlikely to act as a circulating antiplatelet agent in healthy man.