The thienopyridine clopidogrel is not active in vitro and must be administered i.v. or orally, suggesting that metabolism is necessary for activity. To verify whether the effect after i.v. administration was consecutive to recycling by hepatic bile secretion of clopidogrel or its metabolite(s) in the digestive tract, a catheter was implanted in the choledocus of rats, preventing bile and pancreatic secretions from being excreted into the digestive tractus. Two hours after clopidogrel administration (10 mg/kg, i.v.), blood was withdrawn and platelet-rich plasma aggregation was measured after the addition of 5 microM ADP. Clopidogrel treatment was equally efficient for sham-operated and catheterized animals (% inhibition of platelet aggregation: 76% and 59%, respectively) suggesting that the i.v. effect of clopidogrel was independent of re-absorption of biliary-excreted products and consequently that enteric metabolism is not necessary for activity. The antiaggregating activity of clopidogrel in rats before and after functional hepatectomy by a porto-jugular shunt was then studied. A great difference between treated animals was observed 30 min after i.v. administration of 25 mg/kg of clopidogrel. Per cent inhibition of platelet aggregation was 76% and 6% (P less than 0.001) for sham-operated and hepatectomized animals, respectively. Similar results were obtained after intraduodenal administration of clopidogrel, showing that the treatment was completely ineffective in hepatectomized animals. In isolated, blood-perfused rat livers, clopidogrel inhibited ADP-induced platelet aggregation, thereby supporting the theory that the activity of clopidogrel is highly dependent on hepatic metabolism.