The present study investigated the susceptibility of dietary n-3 PUFA to ruminal biohydrogenation, the stability of ingested vitamin E in the rumen and the subsequent uptake of PUFA and vitamin E into plasma. Six cannulated sheep were assigned to six diets over five 33 d periods, in an incomplete 6 X 5 Latin square. The diets, based on dried grass, were formulated to supply 50 g fatty acids/kg DM using three lipid sources: Megalac(R) (calcium soap of palm fatty acid distillate; Volac Ltd, Royston, Herts., UK), linseed (formaldehyde-treated; Trouw Nutrition, Northwich, Ches., UK) and linseed-fish oil (formaldehyde-treated linseed + fish oil). The diets were supplemented with 100 or 500 mg alpha-tocopheryl acetate/kg DM. Fat source or level of vitamin E in the diet did not alter microbial activity in the rumen. Biohydrogenation of linoleic acid (18: 3n-6; 85-90 %), linolenic acid (18: 3n-3; 88-93 %), docosahexaenoic acid (22: 6n-3; 91 %) and EPA (20: 5n-3; 92 %) was extensive. Feeding formaldehyde-treated linseed elevated concentrations of 18: 3n-3 in plasma, whilst 22: 6n-3 and 20: 5n-3 were only increased by feeding the linseed-fish oil blend. Duodenal recovery of ingested vitamin E was high (range 0.79-0.92 mg/mg fed). High dietary vitamin E was associated with increased plasma alpha-tocopherol (2.57 v. 1.46 mug/ml for 500 and 100 mg alpha-tocopheryl acetate/kg DM respectively), although all concentrations were low. Plasma vitamin E levels, however, tended to decrease as the type and quantity of PUFA in the diet increased. The present study illustrates that nutritionally beneficial PUFA in both fish and linseed oils are highly susceptible to biohydrogenation in the rumen. Although alpha-tocopheryl acetate resisted degradation in the rumen, plasma vitamin E status remained deficient to borderline, suggesting either that uptake may have been impaired or metabolism post-absorption increased.