The absence of changes in the overall hepatic cytochrome P450 content after administration of 3-methylcholanthrene (MC) to congenitally jaundiced Gunn rats is believed to be related to a limited heme availability in this strain of rat. The amount of available heme, estimated by tryptophan pyrrolase activity, shows a substantial decrease in control Gunn versus control Wistar rats. This reduction is moderately enhanced by MC treatment in Gunn rats but is abolished after phenobarbital administration. Heme oxygenase activity is diminished in Gunn rats and consequently is not responsible for the decrease in the hepatic heme availability. These data point out that the depletion of the intracellular heme can lead to a limitation in the synthesis of cytochrome P450 isoenzymes in the MC-induced Gunn rat.