In order to distinguish between the mechanism of microsomal ethanol oxidation and hydroxyl-radical formation, the rate of cytochrome P-450 (P-450)-dependent oxidation of dimethyl sulphoxide (Me2SO) was determined in the presence and in the absence of iron-chelating compounds, in liver microsomes from control, ethanol- and phenobarbital-treated rats. Ethanol treatment resulted in a specific increase (3-fold) of the microsomal ethanol oxidation and NADPH consumption per nmol of P-450. A form of P-450 was purified to apparent homogeneity from the ethanol-treated rats and characterized with respect of amino acid composition and N-terminal amino acid sequence. Specific ethanol induction of a cytochrome P-450 species having a catalytic-centre activity of 20/min for ethanol and consuming 30 nmol of NADPH/min could account for the results observed with microsomes. Phenobarbital treatment caused 50% decrease in the rate of ethanol oxidation and NADPH oxidation per nmol of P-450. The rate of oxidation of the hydroxyl-radical scavenger Me2SO was increased 3-fold by ethanol or phenobarbital treatment when expressed on a per-mg-of-microsomal-protein basis, but the rate of Me2SO oxidation expressed on a per-nmol-of-P-450 basis was unchanged. Addition of iron-chelating agents to the three different types of microsomal preparations caused an ‘uncoupling’ of the electron-transport chain accompanied by a 4-fold increase of the rate of Me2SO oxidation. It is concluded that ethanol treatment results in the induction of P-450 forms specifically effective in ethanol oxidation and NADPH oxidation, but not in hydroxyl-radical production, as detected by the oxidation of Me2SO.

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