The role of the glutathione peroxidase/reductase (GSH-Px/GSSG-Rd) enzyme system in protection from paracetamol toxicity was investigated in isolated mouse hepatocytes in primary culture. The effect of inhibitors of these enzymes on the toxicity of paracetamol and on t-butylhydroperoxide (t-BOOH), used as a positive control, was determined. 1,3-Bis(chloroethyl)-1-nitrosourea (BCNU) was used to inhibit GSSG-Rd, and goldthioglucose (GTG) used to inhibit GSH-Px. Both these inhibitors increased cell membrane damage in response to oxidative stress initiated by t-BOOH. However, they also increased the susceptibility of hepatocytes to paracetamol toxicity, indicating that a component of paracetamol's toxic effect involves formation of species that are detoxified by the GSH-Px/GSSG-Rd enzymes. To further examine the role of these enzymes, age-related differences in their activity were exploited. Hepatocytes from two-week-old mice were less susceptible to both t-BOOH and paracetamol toxicity than were those from adult mice. This corresponds to higher activity of cytosolic GSH-Px/GSSG-Rd in this age group. However, after inhibition of GSSG-Rd with BCNU, hepatocytes from these postnatal mice were more susceptible to paracetamol toxicity. This suggests that the higher activity of GSH-Px/GSSG-Rd in hepatocytes from two-week-old mice is responsible for their reduced susceptibility to paracetamol toxicity. The data indicate that the GSH-Px/GSSG-Rd enzymes contribute to protection from paracetamol toxicity and suggest that formation of peroxides contributes to this drug's hepatotoxic effects.