Hydrolysis of phospholipid (PL) within camptothecin (CPT)-containing liposomes was studied systematically, after elevated lyso-phosphatidylcholine (LPC)-concentrations in pH 5, CPT-containing liposomes (22.1+/-0.9 mol%) relative to control-liposomes (7.3+/-0.5 mol%) occasionally had been observed after four months storage in fridge. Liposomes were prepared by dispersing freeze-dried PL/CPT mixtures in 25 mM phosphate buffered saline (PBS) of varying pH (5.0-7.8) and CPT concentrations (0, 3 and 6 mM). PL-hydrolysis was monitored by HPTLC, quantifying LPC. In an accelerated stability study (60 degrees C), a catalytic effect of CPT on PL-hydrolysis was observed after 40 h, but not up to 30 h of incubation. The pH profile of the hydrolysis indicated a stability optimum at pH 6.0 for the liposomes independent of CPT. The equilibrium point between the more active lactone- and the carboxylate-form of CPT was found to be pH 6.8. As a compromise, pH 6.0 was chosen, assuring >85% CPT to be present in the lactone form. At this pH, both control- and CPT-liposomes showed only minor hydrolysis after autoclaving (121 degrees C, 15 min). Storage at room temperature and in fridge (2 months), as well as accelerated ageing (70 degrees C, 25 h), gave a significant elevation of LPC content in CPT-liposomes relative to control-liposomes. This study demonstrates a catalytic effect of CPT on PL-hydrolysis, the onset of which seems to require a certain threshold level of hydrolytic degradation.