The perfused rat liver responds in several ways to NAD(+) infusion (20-100 microM). Increases in portal perfusion pressure and glycogenolysis and transient inhibition of oxygen consumption and gluconeogenesis are some of the effects that were observed. Extracellular NAD(+) is also extensively transformed in the liver. The purpose of the present work was to determine the main products of extracellular NAD(+) transformation under various conditions and to investigate the possible contribution of these products for the metabolic effects of the parent compound. The experiments were done with the isolated perfused rat liver. The NAD(+) transformation was monitored by HPLC. Confirming previous findings, the single-pass transformation of 100 microM NAD(+) ranged between 75% at 1.5 min after starting infusion to 95% at 8 min. The most important products of single-pass NAD(+) transformation appearing in the outflowing perfusate were nicotinamide, ADP-ribose, uric acid, and inosine. The relative proportions of these products presented some variations with the time after initiation of NAD(+) infusion and the perfusion conditions, but ADP-ribose was always more abundant than uric acid and inosine. Cyclic ADP-ribose (cADP-ribose) as well as adenosine were not detected in the outflowing perfusate. The metabolic effects of ADP-ribose were essentially those already described for NAD(+). These effects were sensitive to suramin (P2(XY) purinergic receptor antagonist) and insensitive to 3,7-dimethyl-1-(2-propargyl)-xanthine (A2 purinergic receptor antagonist). Inosine, a known purinergic A3 agonist, was also active on metabolism, but uric acid and nicotinamide were inactive. It was concluded that the metabolic and hemodynamic effects of extracellular NAD(+) are caused mainly by interactions with purinergic receptors with a highly significant participation of its main transformation product ADP-ribose.