The effect of recombinant tumor necrosis factor on liver cytochrome P450 and related drug metabolism enzymes was investigated. Treatment of mice with tumor necrosis factor caused a marked depression of cytochrome P450 and some drug metabolizing enzymes (ethoxycoumarin deethylase and arylhydrocarbon hydroxylase) in the liver and many other organs. This effect was maximal 24-48 h after treatment and was dependent on the dose of tumor necrosis factor administered. Depression of liver drug metabolizing enzymes was also observed in the endotoxin-resistant C3H/HeJ strain of mice, thus ruling out that this effect may be due to minor endotoxin contamination of recombinant tumor necrosis factor. These data indicate that depression of liver drug metabolism might be an important side effect of tumor necrosis factor, and suggest a role for this macrophage product as an endogenous regulator of liver metabolism.