As other xenobiotics, polyphenols are metabolized both by the endogenous detoxication system and the gut microflora. We hypothesized that the presence of a gut microflora may account for the effect of catechins on phase I and II xenobiotic-metabolizing enzymes and that the human bacterial metabolites may be different from those of a rodent gut microflora. Therefore, the effects of 2% (+)-catechin or 2% (-)-epicatechin were studied in germ free (GF) rats and rats inoculated with the flora of a human volunteer (HFA). In addition, the catechins were administered in ethanol as a vehicle. In the liver, (+)-catechin or (-)-epicatechin decreased the total amount of CYP450 in both GF and HFA rats while the isoenzyme CYP2E1 decreased. In GF rats only, CYP2C11 increased when compared to the rats treated with the vehicle alone. (+)-catechin increased the specific activity of UGT-chloramphenicol in GF rats only and that of cytosolic glutathion-S-transferase (GST) in HFA rats only. In the intestine, (+)-catechin and (-)-epicatechin increased the specific activity of UGT-4-methylumbelliferone in both GF and HFA rats and that of UGT- chloramphenicol in HFA rats only. In conclusion, the presence of a human flora in rats is able to modify the inducing effect of catechins on the UGT and GST activities suggesting the involvement of bacterial metabolites. The alterations on CYP 450 are independent of the presence of a human gut flora.