Because of its high sensitivity, gas chromatography negative ion chemical ionization mass spectrometry (GC-NCI-MS) is a potentially valuable analytical tool for the study of cholesterol metabolism. Of several derivatives prepared for potential use in tracer studies pentafluorobenzoyl cholesterol was selected because it formed rapidly at ambient temperature and was stable for long periods, could be detected at a level of 1 fmol, and yielded a mass spectrum in which the molecular ion was the principal component. Hexadeuterated cholesterol tracer ([26,26,26,27,27,27-2H6]cholesterol) could be detected in dilutions up to 2700 in unlabeled cholesterol by selected ion monitoring with a coefficient of variation averaging 3.2%. In seven normal subjects tracer cholesterol was infused intravenously and plasma cholesterol enrichment was determined after 4 h. The measured rapidly miscible cholesterol pool was 391.0 +/- 38.6 mg cholesterol/kg. Negative ion mass spectrometry of pentafluorobenzyol cholesterol will facilitate analysis of both small amounts of natural cholesterol and labeled cholesterol in applications where sensitivity is critical.