The roles of calcium and/or of the other cellular transduction pathways, and of nitric oxide (NO) on the induction of metallothionein (MT) mRNA by lipopolysaccharide (LPS) has been studied in rat primary cell culture, using inhibitors of protein kinase pathways (H-7, W-7 and TMB-8) and NO production inhibitors (L-NAME, PTIO). LPS exposure led to a rapid increase of MT-mRNA and a peak level revealed 2.5-fold induction as compared to control for 6h incubation at a dose of 3.0 mg/L. A dose of 5.0 and 10.0 mg/L of LPS also provided the same level of MT-mRNA induction. The inhibition of MT induction by LPS was observed with L-NAME, PTIO, but not H-7, W-7. These findings indicate that the alteration of cellular calcium concentration and distribution does not relate to the induction of MT-mRNA by LPS in hepatocytes and that protein kinase C and calmodulin dependent protein kinase pathways have not contributed to MT-mRNA induction by LPS. Finally, the present results show that NO plays an important role in MT induction by LPS.