The effect of lactation on UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) and Glutathione S-transferase (GST) activities was studied in jejunum from mother rats, 14 (LM14) and 21 (LM21) days after delivery. p-Nitrophenol glucuronidation rate was increased in LM14 and LM21 rats while conjugation of bilirubin and estrone was not affected and androsterone glucuronidation was decreased. Additional studies, including Western blotting and microsomal lipid analysis, revealed that the enhancement in p-nitrophenol UGT activity is most likely associated with an inductive process rather than with a modification in enzyme constraint. GST activity towards 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene (CDNB) was also increased in LM14 and LM21 while activity towards 1,2-dichloro-4-nitrobenzene (DCNB) was not affected. Western blotting revealed a significant increase in the cytosolic content of mu (rGSTM2) and pi (rGSTP1) class subunits in LM14 and LM21 groups, while the alpha class subunit rGSTA2 remained unchanged. To evaluate the potential modulatory role of prolactin on the same enzyme systems, ovariectomized rats were treated with ovine prolactin (oPRL) at doses of 100, 200 and 300 microg/100 g body wt. per day for 4 days. Hormone administration affected UGT activities towards p-nitrophenol and androsterone and GST activity towards CDNB in a way and magnitude consistent with those produced in lactating rats, while conjugation of estrone, bilirubin and DCNB were unchanged. Western blotting data were also consistent with those of lactating rats. These results indicate that UGT and GST activities are increased in rat jejunum during lactation, due to induction of some specific isoforms, and that prolactin is the likely mediator of these effects.