In a preliminary paper [Decker et al. (1986) Biochem. Biophys. Res. Commun. 136, 1162] we have shown that the antimineralocorticoid spironolactone (SPL) preferentially inactivates dexamethasone (DEX) inducible rat hepatic cytochrome P450p isozymes in a suicidal manner. These findings are now confirmed, and the kinetic characteristics of such a process are detailed. In an effort to elucidate the mechanism of SPL-mediated inactivation of cytochrome P450, we have examined the metabolism of SPL in vitro. Incubation of [14C]SPL and NADPH with liver microsomes prepared from DEX-pretreated rats results in the formation of several polar metabolites separable by HPLC with UV detection. This process is found to be dependent on NADPH, O2, SPL, and enzyme concentration, as well as temperature. Furthermore, metabolite formation was significantly attenuated by P450 inhibitors CO and n-octylamine. Mass spectral analysis (thermospray LC/MS, FAB/MS, and FAB/MS/MS) of the two most prominent polar metabolites indicated that these compounds had molecular weights that corresponded to the sulfinic and sulfonic acid derivatives of deacetyl-SPL (SPL-SH). These findings document the formation of previously unreported polar metabolites of SPL by rat liver microsomes enriched in cytochrome P450p and implicate a role for this isozyme in the oxidation of the thiol moiety of deacetyl-SPL. The detection of such metabolites also implicates a catalytic trajectory that includes the thiyl radical and/or sulfenic acid species as a plausible protagonist in drug-mediated inactivation of cytochrome P450p.