The sulfate and glucuronide conjugation of acetaminophen (APAP) by hepatocytes cultured on Matrigel or type 1 collagen was compared to APAP metabolism in vivo. The metabolic fate of low (15 mg/kg), medium (125 mg/kg), and high (300 mg/kg) doses of APAP injected intraperitoneally were determined in male and female rats. Males excreted more APAP as the sulfate conjugate than females, which correlated with the twofold greater APAP sulfotransferase activity in the male vs. females (301 +/- 24 vs. 156 +/- 18 pmol.mg-1 protein.min-1). Also, as sulfate conjugation became saturated, there was a dose-related shift in APAP metabolism from sulfate to glucuronide conjugation in both sexes. After death, the livers of the same animals were perfused with collagenase and the hepatocytes cultured in modified Waymouth's medium on either Matrigel or rat-tail collagen, with various doses of APAP (0, 0.125, 0.25, 0.5, and 1.0 mM). Sex differences in APAP sulfation and glucuronidation persisted in culture for up to 4 days, with sulfation predominating in the male similar to in vivo. With increasing APAP concentration (dose), there was a saturation of sulfate conjugation and a shift to glucuronidation as observed in vivo. Sex differences in APAP sulfation and glucuronidation were no longer significant by Day 4 in culture. Sulfation, and to a lesser extent, glucuronidation, were more stable on Matrigel than collagen. We concluded that APAP metabolism of freshly isolated hepatocytes could replicate in vivo sex differences in conjugation, and that Matrigel was superior to collagen as substrate.