1. The metabolism of inorganic [35S]sulphate (Na235SO4) was studied in the isolated perfused rat liver at three initial concentrations of inorganic sulphate in the perfusion medium (0, 0.65 and 1.30mm), in relation to sulphation and glucuronidation of a phenolic drug, harmol (7-hydroxy-1-methyl-9H-pyrido[3,4-b]indole). 2. [35S]Sulphate rapidly equilibrated with endogenous sulphate in the liver. It was excreted in bile and reached, at the lowest concentration in the perfusion medium, concentrations in bile that were much higher than those in the perfusion medium; at the higher sulphate concentrations, these concentrations were equal. The physiological concentration of inorganic sulphate in the liver, available for sulphation of drugs, is similar to the plasma concentration. 3. At zero initial inorganic sulphate in the perfusion medium, the rate of sulphation was very low and harmol was mainly glucuronidated. At 0.65mm-sulphate glucuronidation was much decreased and considerable sulphation took place, indicating efficient competition of conjugation by sulphation. At 1.30mm-sulphate the sulphation increased still further. 4. The results suggest that an important factor in sulphation is the relatively high Km of synthesis of adenosine 3′-phosphate 5′-sulphatophosphate (the co-substrate of sulphation) for inorganic sulphate, which is of the order of the plasma concentration of inorganic sulphate. The steady-state adenosine 3′-phosphate 5′-sulphatophosphate concentration may determine the rate of sulphate conjugation of drugs in the rat in vivo.

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