Eisai hyperbilirubinemic rats (EHBR) are mutant Sprague-Dawley rats that exhibit impaired biliary organic anion and reduced glutathione (GSH) secretion. In addition, liver GSH levels are twice that of age-matched controls. The mechanisms for the defect in biliary GSH secretion and the increase in cell GSH are not fully understood. We previously showed that canalicular membrane-enriched vesicles isolated from EHBR livers exhibited normal GSH transport. In the present study, we examined the steady-state rat canalicular reduced glutathione transporter (RcGshT) messenger RNA (mRNA) and protein levels, as well as the mechanisms for the increase in cell GSH. Both Northern and Western blot analyses of EHBR livers showed nearly identical RcGshT mRNA and polypeptide levels, respectively, as compared with controls. Treatment with phenobarbital, which increased steady-state RcGshT mRNA by five- to sixfold, RcGshT polypeptide, and biliary GSH secretion by onefold in controls, had a smaller effect on steady-state RcGshT-mRNA level in EHBR (by 1.5-fold) and did not increase RcGshT polypeptide or biliary GSH secretion. In examining possible mechanisms for increased liver GSH, both cysteine level and gamma-glutamylcysteine synthetase (GCS) activity were significantly higher than controls, while the activity of GSH synthetase was unchanged. Northern and Western blot analyses also showed increased steady-state GCS heavy subunit (GCS-HS) mRNA and polypeptide levels, respectively. In addition to liver, GSH levels in kidney, duodenal, jejunal, and ileal mucosa of EHBR were 200% to 300% of age-matched control rats. GCS activity was also increased in kidney cytosol of EHBR. Thus, the defect in biliary GSH secretion in EHBR most likely is either at the posttranslational level of RcGshT or in the inhibition exerted by retained endogenous organic anions. In addition, there is a widespread up-regulation of GSH synthesis capacity in the tissues of EHBR.