We have been studying laser-induced fluorescence as a technique for identification of selected changes in the chemical composition of atherosclerotic plaque. Formulae for quantification of chemical changes have been developed based upon analysis of fluorescence emission spectra using multiple regression analysis and the principal of least squares. The intima of human aortic necropsy specimens was injected with chemical compounds present in atherosclerotic plaque. Spectra recorded after injection of selected chemical components found in plaque (collagen I, III, IV, elastin and cholesterol) at varying concentrations (0.01 - 1.0 mg) were compared with saline injection. A single fiber system was used for both fluorescence excitation (XeCl excimer laser, 308 nm, 1.5 - 2.0 mJ/ pulse, 5 Hz) and fluorescence emission detection. Average spectra for each chemical have been developed and the wavelengths of peak emission intensity identified. Curve fitting analysis as well as multiple regression analysis were used to develop formulae for assessment of chemical content. Distinctive identifying average curves were established for each chemical. Excellent correlations were identified for collagen I, III, and IV, elastin, and cholesterol (R2 equals 0.92 6- 0.997). Conclusions: (1) Fluorescence spectra of human aortas were significantly altered by collagen I, collagen III, elastin and cholesterol. (2) Fluorescence spectroscopic analysis may allow quantitative assessment of atherosclerotic plaque chemical content in situ.