Possible alterations in blood-to-brain unidirectional transport of sucrose (mol. wt., 342), alpha-aminoisobutyric acid (mol. wt., 104), and L-phenylalanine (mol. wt., 165) induced by a diet deficient in n-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids were studied with respect to blood-brain barrier function. Two groups of rats were for to two generations with a semisynthetic diet. One group of rats was fed a peanut oil + rapeseed oil diet which contained both essential fatty acids: linoleic acid (18:2 n-6) and alpha-linolenic acid, (18:3 n-3). Another group was fed a diet of peanut oil, this diet (containing 18:2 n-6) was deficient in alpha-linolenic acid. The experiments were performed at 6 months of age. Unidirectional transfer rate constants (K(i)) of sucrose, alpha-aminoisobutyric acid and L-phenylalanine were measured. The diet based on peanut oil (deficient in n-3) caused a greater blood-to-brain transport of sucrose but not of alpha-aminoisobutyric acid or L-phenylalanine. These observations indicate that regardless of the mechanisms involved, alterations in essential fatty acids induced by diet can modulate to some extent the blood-brain transport of hydrophilic molecules without a carrier.