Levels of various cytochrome P450 proteins have been reported to be decreased to varying degrees in chemically induced hepatocyte nodules and following partial hepatectomy (PH). By screening a rat liver lambda ZAP cDNA expression library with antibodies raised against a partially purified preparation of cytochrome P450 isolated from untreated male Fischer 344 rats, we have isolated a 1.1-kb cDNA. This cDNA was sequenced for 139 bases from the 5' end of the sense strand and comparison of the resulting sequence with the sequences in Gene Man DNA data bank revealed 95% homology of the sequenced portion with male-specific rat cytochrome P450 (M-1, CYP IIC11). The 32P-labeled cDNA was used as a hybridization probe on RNA blots (Northern blots) prepared with total RNA from rat livers obtained post PH, from aflatoxin B1(AFB1)-induced rat liver tumors and from rat liver nodules induced with a combination of diethylnitrosamine/acetylaminofluorene/PH (DEN/AFF/PH). At 36 and 72 hr post PH, the mRNA level was decreased by > 93%. Relative to the corresponding control livers, the mRNA level was also decreased by 97% in the liver nodules and by 57% in AFB1-induced liver tumors. The RNA blots derived from the liver nodules and AFB1-induced liver tumors were also probed with a cDNA probe (R17) that recognizes other cytochromes P450 (CYP IIB1/CYP IIB2). The mRNA corresponding to CYP IIB1/CYP IIB2 was also depressed 92% in the nodules and 65% in the tumors. These results clearly indicate that the depression of both CYP IIC11 and IIB1/IIB2 in the hepatic nodules and the tumors is related to the inhibition of transcription and/or enhanced degradation of the mRNA.