The role of the liver in the conjugation of 4-methylumbelliferone (4MU), mainly glucuronidation, was investigated in the rat in vivo. The liver extracted 4MU almost completely (97%) during steady-state infusion, as measured by the difference between 4MU concentration in portal and hepatic venous blood. Previously, it was shown that the intestinal region extracts 40% of the 4MU of the incoming arterial blood. The liver and the gastrointestinal region are so efficient that their conjugation activity can account for total body clearance of 4MU (50-60 ml/min per kg). These results and other evidence on extrahepatic conjugation of phenolic substrates suggest that glucuronidation may be limited to the liver, (the kidney) and the gastrointestinal region, while sulfation may occur more widespread throughout the body. Protein binding studies showed the sulfate conjugate to be even more protein-bound than unconjugated 4MU, while 4MU glucuronide was much less bound to rat plasma proteins.