These studies were designed to test the hypothesis that oltipraz (OTP) provided protection against AAP intoxication in a sensitive species, the hamster; and further, to show that the sparing effect was related to the marked increase in hepatic reduced glutathione (GSH) levels. Dose-response and time-course experiments demonstrated that maximal increases in liver GSH occurred at 48 hr after an oltipraz dose of approximately 2.0 mmol/kg (po). Accompanying greater GSH levels were increased glutathione disulfide (GSSG) levels. Decreased indices of the oxidation state of glutathione and of hepatic pyridine nucleotides indicated a greater share of glutathione existed as GSH and that increased reducing equivalents were present, respectively. Additionally, glutathione disulfide reductase activity was greater in OTP-treated groups. Glutathione S-transferase activities were only marginally increased. OTP treatment did not elicit observable hepatotoxicity, whereas AAP (2.6 mmol/kg, ip) resulted in a reproducible model of liver damage. OTP-treated groups were protected from AAP-induced toxicity, as shown by decreased plasma appearance of liver enzymes and unremarkable histopathology. However, the degree of liver GSH depletion by AAP was fourfold greater in non-OTP treated groups compared to those which had received the dithiolthione. To test the importance of increased hepatic GSH, the biosynthesis of glutathione was interrupted. Buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) treatment decreased hepatic GSH, the biosynthesis of glutathione was interrupted. Buthionine sulfoximine (BSO) treatment decreased hepatic GSH content to 50% of control in hamsters which either had or had not received OTP. The groups receiving BSO and AAP incurred 83% lethality, while no lethality, unremarkable liver histopathology, and plasma enzyme levels consistent with control were found in the group receiving OTP, BSO, and AAP. Treatment with BSO only had no influence on hepatotoxicity parameters. These results indicate that the increased GSH levels in the OTP-treated hamster are coincidental to the sparing effect of OTP and are not central to the protection scheme in AAP-induced hepatotoxicity.