Metadoxine (pyridoxine-pyrrolidone carboxylate) has been reported to accelerate ethanol metabolism. In the present work we have investigated the effect of metadoxine on the activities of isolated alcohol and aldehyde dehydrogenases from rat and man, and on the activity of these enzymes in chronic ethanol-fed rats. Our results indicate that in vitro metadoxine does not activate any of the enzymatic forms of alcohol dehydrogenase (classes I and II) or aldehyde dehydrogenase (low-Km and high-Km, cytosolic and mitochondrial). At concentrations higher than 0.1 mM, metadoxine inhibits rat class II alcohol dehydrogenase, although this would probably not affect the physiological ethanol metabolism. Chronic ethanol intake for 5 weeks results in a 25% decrease of rat hepatic alcohol dehydrogenase (class I) activity as compared with the pair-fed controls. The simultaneous treatment with metadoxine prevents activity loss, suggesting that the positive effect of metadoxine on ethanol metabolism can be explained by the maintenance of normal levels of alcohol dehydrogenase during chronic ethanol intake. No specific effect of chronic exposure to ethanol or to metadoxine was detected on rat aldehyde dehydrogenase activity.