1. In this study, 7-benzyloxy-4-trifluoromethylcoumarin (BFC) was evaluated as a substrate to assess the induction of cytochrome P450 (CYP) isoform enzyme activities in rat hepatocytes using a 96-well plate format. 2. BFC was metabolized by both untreated and sodium phenobarbitone (NaPB)-treated rat hepatocytes in a time- and concentration-dependent manner to the highly fluorescent product 7-hydroxy-4-trifluoromethylcoumarin (HFC). 3. HFC was extensively conjugated with D-glucuronic acid and/or sulphate in both untreated and NaPB-treated rat hepatocytes, thus necessitating the inclusion of an enzymatic deconjugation step in the assay procedure. 4. The time-course of induction of 7-ethoxyresorufin metabolism by the CYP1A inducer beta-naphthoflavone (BNF), 7-benzyloxyresorufin metabolism by the CYP2B inducer NaPB and BFC metabolism b both BNF and NaPB was studied in rat hepatocytes treated for 24-96 h. The optimal time for induction of metabolism of all three substrates was 72 h, with no medium changes being necessary during this period. 5. The effect of treatment with 0.5-20 microM BNF, 50-2000 microM NaPB, 2-20 microM dexamethasone (DEX), 20-100 microM methylclofenapate (MCP), and 50 and 200 microM isoniazid (ISN) for 72 h on BFC metabolism in cultured rat hepatocytes was studied. BFC metabolism was induced by treatment with BNF, NaPB and MCP, but not with either DEX or ISN. 6. The metabolism of BFC in liver microsomes from the control rat and rat treated with CYP isoform inducers was also studied. BFC metabolism was induced by treatment with NaPB, BNF and DEX. 7. The metabolism of BFC was also studied using microsomes from baculovirus-infected insect cells containing rat cDNA-expressed CYP1A, CYP2B, CYP2C and CYP3A isoforms. Whereas BFC was metabolized to some extent by all the rat cDNA-expressed CYP isoforms examined, at a substrate concentration of 2.5 microM the greatest rates of BFC metabolism were observed with the CYP1A1, CYP1A2 and CYP2B1 preparations. 8. In summary, the results demonstrate that BFC is a good substrate for assessing the induction of CYP1A and CYP2B isoforms in rat hepatocytes in a 96-well plate format.