Morphological and cell fractionation approaches were used to establish unambiguously the distribution of CuZn superoxide dismutase (CuZn SOD) in rat hepatocytes. Immunocytochemical observations revealed a primarily cytoplasmic localization of the enzyme. While only trace amounts were found in cell organelles like mitochondria and peroxisomes, lysosomes were labelled stronger than the cytoplasm. The presence of CuZn SOD in lysosomes was also identified in cell fractions of normal and Triton WR-1339-treated rats. Microscopic studies showed that the distribution of CuZn SOD was not affected by Triton, but the Triton treatment induced an apparent increase in the number and size of lysosomes with electron lucent contents which corresponded with a shift of lysosomes to low buoyant density fractions. The majority of CuZn SOD originally present in the mixed mitochondrial-peroxisomal-lysosomal fractions of the normal liver comigrated with the main peak of the lysosomal marker, beta-hexosaminidase, after Triton treatment. The peroxisomal marker, catalase, did not migrate with the CuZn SOD/beta-hexosaminidase-rich fractions in livers from Triton-treated animals. These results confirm earlier observations in rat liver cells, showing that CuZn SOD, a primarily cytosolic enzyme, accumulates in lysosomes. It is not present in significant amounts in rat hepatocyte peroxisomes.