Acetaminophen (APAP) is a commonly used analgesic and antipyretic agent which, in high doses, causes liver and kidney necrosis in man and animals. Damage in both target organs is greatly dependent upon biotransformation. However, in the CD1 mouse only males exhibit cytochrome P450-dependent nephrotoxicity and selective protein covalent binding. The lack of renal toxicity in female mice may reflect the androgen dependence of renal CYP2E1. To study this, female mice were pretreated with testosterone propionate and then challenged 6 days later with APAP. Groups of control males and females were similarly challenged with APAP for comparison. All groups exhibited hepatotoxicity after APAP with similar glutathione (GSH) depletion, covalent binding, centrilobular necrosis, and elevation of plasma sorbitol dehydrogenase activity. By contrast, APAP-induced nephrotoxicity occurred only in males and in the females pretreated with testosterone. No nephrotoxicity was evident in APAP-challenged control females. The selective pattern of hepatic and renal protein arylation previously reported for male mice was similarly observed in testosterone-pretreated female mice. Western blot analysis of microsomes showed that testosterone increased renal CYP2E1 levels without altering hepatic CYP2E1. Testosterone pretreatment, in vivo, also resulted in increased activation of APAP in vitro in kidney microsomes with no effect on the in vitro activation of APAP in liver microsomes. These data suggest that APAP-mediated GSH depletion, covalent binding, and toxicity in the kidneys of testosterone-pretreated females results from increased APAP activation by the testosterone-induced renal CYP2E1. This further suggests that renal, rather than hepatic, biotransformation of APAP to a toxic electrophile is central to APAP-induced nephrotoxicity in the mouse.