Lapachol [2-hydroxy-3-(3-methyl-2-butenyl)-1,4-naphthoquinone] has been shown to be a potent inhibitor of both vitamin K epoxide reductase and the dithiothreitol-dependent vitamin K quinone reductase of rat liver microsomes in vitro. These observations explain the anticoagulant activity of lapachol previously observed in both rats and humans. Lapachol inhibition of the vitamin K epoxide and quinone reductases resembled coumarin anticoagulant inhibition, and was observed in normal strain but not in warfarin-resistant strain rat liver microsomes. This similarity of action suggests that the lactone functionality of the coumarins is not critical for their activity. The initial-velocity steady-state inhibition patterns for lapachol inhibition of the solubilized vitamin K epoxide reductase were consistent with tight binding of lapachol to the oxidized form of the enzyme, and somewhat lower affinity for the reduced form. It is proposed that lapachol assumes a 4-enol tautomeric structure similar to that of the 4-hydroxy coumarins. These structures are analogs of the postulated hydroxyvitamin K enolate intermediate bound to the oxidized form of the enzyme in the chemical reaction mechanism of vitamin K epoxide reductase, thus explaining their high affinity.