The influence of N-acetyl-S-(1,2,3,4,4-pentachloro-1,3-butadienyl)-L-cysteine (NAc-PCBD) on cysteine conjugate beta-lyase in female rat kidney has been examined. After a single, non-nephrotoxic dose of NAc-PCBD (3 mg/kg), cytosolic beta-lyase enzyme activity was increased 1.5 to 3-fold commensurate with a corresponding increase in enzyme protein levels as assessed by both Western blot and ELISA analyses. Using a cDNA probe for beta-lyase, this induction was found to be accompanied by an increase in the cognate mRNA. In contrast, a higher, nephrotoxic dose of NAc-PCBD (10 mg/kg) decreased all the above parameters. These effects appeared to be specific to the cytosolic form of the enzyme as no changes in kidney mitochondrial beta-lyase or enzyme protein levels were observed. Repeated dosing with the lower dose level (3 mg/kg) resulted in either no change, or in some instances, a reduction in the above parameters, suggesting an accumulation of the xenobiotic and a masking of the induction phenomenon. The molecular mechanisms underlying these observations are discussed in terms of the nephrotoxicity of halogenated xenobiotics.