To investigate constitutive and inducible expression of rat phenol UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT1A1) in liver and extrahepatic tissues, a selective cDNA probe for its unique exon 1 was utilized. 6-Hydroxychrysene was used as a functional probe of UGT1A1 activity. Constitutive expression of UGT1A1 was low in liver, but high in kidney, testis, epididymis and ovary. After treatment with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD; 10 micrograms/kg for 7 days) the UGT1A1 mRNA level was markedly increased in liver (ca. 10-fold), and only moderately enhanced (up to 2-fold) in extrahepatic tissues where constitutive enzyme expression was high. UGT activity toward 6-hydroxychrysene was strongly inducible in liver (ca. 9-fold) and only moderately inducible in extrahepatic tissues (up to 2-fold). The results suggest complex tissue-specific regulation of UGT1A1 including positive and negative transcriptional factors and marked inducibility by TCDD in liver.