A system for in vivo, automatic, continuous monitoring of organ extracellular ascorbic acid in anesthetized rat is described. This system involves microdialysis perfusion and a LC system equipped with an electrochemical detector. Microdialysate, eluted from a microdialysis probe implanted in the brain cortex or in the left ventricular myocardium of anesthetized rats was collected in the sample loop of an on-line injector for direct injection onto the LC system. This automated method provides a shortened sample processing time. This system was utilized to investigate the effect of cerebral ischemia on cortex extracellular ascorbic acid and the effect of myocardial ischemia on left ventricular myocardium extracellular ascorbic acid in anesthetized rats. Basal ascorbic acid concentrations in the cortex and left ventricular myocardium ranged from 9.7 to 15.4 microM (mean +/- S.D., 12.7 +/- 2.5 microM from the results of eight rats) and from 9.3 to 36.0 microM (mean +/- S.D., 24.3 +/- 8.9 microM from the results of twelve rats), respectively. Cerebral ischemia significantly elevated ascorbic acid levels in the cortex extracellular space, while myocardial ischemia did not significantly alter ascorbic acid levels in the left ventricular myocardium extracellular space.