High-resolution proton magnetic resonance spectroscopy was performed on tissue specimens from 33 patients with astrocytic tumors (22 astrocytomas, 11 glioblastomas) and 13 patients with meningiomas. For all patients, samples of primary tumors and their first recurrences were examined. Increased anaplasia, with respect to malignant transformation, resulting in a higher malignancy grade, was present in 11 recurrences of 22 astrocytoma patients. Spectroscopic features of tumor types, as determined on samples of the primary occurrences, were in good agreement with previous studies. Compared with the respective primary astrocytomas, characteristic features of glioblastomas were significantly increased concentrations of alanine (Ala) (pŒ0.005), increased metabolite ratios of glycine (Gly)/total creatine (tCr) (pŒ0.0001) and glutamate (Glu)/glutamine (Gln) (pŒ0.004). Meningiomas showed increased Ala (pŒ0.02) and metabolite ratios [Gly, total choline (tCho), Ala] over tCr (pŒ0.001) relative to astrocytomas, and N-acetylaspartate and myo-inositol were absent. Metabolic changes of an evolving tumor were observed in recurrent astrocytomas: owing to their consecutive assessments, more indicators of malignant degeneration were detected in astrocytoma recurrences (e.g. Gly, pŒ0.029; tCho, pŒ0.034; Glu, pŒ0.015; tCho/tCr, pŒ0.001) in contrast to the comparison of primary astrocytomas with primary glioblastomas. The present investigation demonstrated a correlation of the tCho-signal with tumor progression. Significantly elevated concentrations of Ala (pŒ0.037) and Glu (pŒ0.003) and metabolite ratio tCho/tCr (pŒ0.005) were even found in recurrent low-grade astrocytomas with unchanged histopathological grading (nŒ11). This may be related to an early stage of malignant transformation, not yet detectable morphologically, and emphasizes the high sensitivity of 1H NMR spectroscopy in elucidating characteristics of brain tumor metabolism.