Murine hepatic cytochrome P450 2a5 (Cyp2a5) is induced during hepatotoxicity and hepatitis, however, the specific regulatory mechanisms have not been determined. We compared the influence of acute inflammation elicited in vivo by bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS) and liver injury caused by the hepatotoxin pyrazole on hepatic Cyp2a5 expression in mice. Pyrazole treatment resulted in statistically significant increases in levels of Cyp2a5 mRNA, protein and catalytic activity by 540, 273 and 711%, respectively (P<0.05). In LPS-treated livers Cyp2a5 expression was significantly reduced compared to controls at the mRNA (46%) protein (35%), and activity (23%) levels (P<0.05). Treatment of mice with recombinant murine interleukin-1 beta and interleukin-6 had no significant effect on Cyp2a5 mRNA and protein levels. Liver injury, as assessed by serum alanine aminotransferase, was greater with pyrazole than with LPS treatment (609 vs 354% of control levels respectively). ER stress, determined by hepatic glucose regulated protein 78 (grp78) levels, was greater with pyrazole (185% of controls) than with LPS (128% of controls). In pyrazole-treated liver, overexpression of immunoreactive grp78 protein revealed that ER stress was localized to pericentral hepatocytes in which Cyp2a5 was induced. Evidence of glycogen loss and membrane damage in these cells was suggestive of oxidative damage. Moreover, vitamin E attenuated Cyp2a5 induction by pyrazole in vivo. These results suggest that induction of Cyp2a5 that has been observed in mouse models of hepatitis and hepatoxicity may be related to oxidative injury to the endoplasmic reticulum of pericentral hepatocytes rather than exposure to pro-inflammatory cytokines.