Measurement of fatty acids in biological fluids and cell membranes including leucocytes from multiple sclerosis patients is inconsistent. The objective of the present study was to investigate the fatty acid composition within the different membrane phospholipid fractions in peripheral blood mononuclear cells in multiple sclerosis patients, and correlate with severity of neurological outcome as measured by the Kurtzke Expanded Disability Status Scale and Functional System Scores. The fatty acid composition of phosphatidylcholine, phosphatidylethanolamine, phosphatidylserine, sphingomyelin and phosphatidylinositol phospholipids in the peripheral blood mononuclear cells of twenty-six multiple sclerosis and twenty-five control subjects were measured by GC, and C-reactive protein was measured in all subjects. The elongation product of 20 : 4n-6, 22 : 4n-6, was significantly decreased in membrane phosphatidylethanolamine and phosphatidylserine in multiple sclerosis patients (P = 0·01 and P = 0·03 respectively), and correlated inversely with severity of disease and C-reactive protein. Also an inverse correlation was observed between the C-reactive protein and membrane phosphatidylcholine and phosphatidylserine 20 : 4n-6. Cultural and ethnic differences, as well as dietary variability, especially in a diseased state have been implicated in the differences observed in the fatty acid composition in peripheral blood mononuclear cell membranes of patients with multiple sclerosis. The present results suggest that the disease state may in part explain the reported inconsistencies in fatty acid levels in multiple sclerosis patients.