A novel method has been devised for the determination of phytochelatins (PCs), heavy-metal-tolerant peptides produced by higher plants and algae. The method is based on the facts that fluorescence of bathocuproine disulfonate (BCS) is quenched by Cu(I) ions as a result of Cu(I)-BCS complex formation and that PCs compete with BCS for Cu(I). Detection of PCs via recovered fluorescence of BCS using the Cu(I)-BCS complex as a postcolumn reagent, following separation of peptides on an octyldecylsilane column, demonstrated a highly sensitive method for determination of PCs. PCs in the primitive red alga, Cyanidioschyzon merolae, grown in the presence or absence of added Cd(II) were successfully determined by this protocol. Unlike other methods for the determination of PCs, which rely on the SH groups in the peptides, the proposed method is unique in that detection is based on the chemical nature of PCs, which favors the formation of complexes with Cu(I). In this context, the new method yields chromatograms based on the strength of binding Cu(I) ions.