Recent data suggest that plasma levels of the phase II detoxification enzyme glutathione S-transferase alpha may be a sensitive indicator of hepatocellular integrity in acute liver disorders but little information is available in chronic hepatic disorders. Using a newly developed enzyme linked immunosorbent assay, glutathione S-transferase A1-1 (GSTA1-1) levels were measured in 279 plasma samples from patients with chronic liver disorders. Results were categorized as normal or elevated plasma GSTA1-1 and normal or elevated plasma aspartate aminotransferase (AST) levels. In 24 patients with alcoholic liver cirrhosis, plasma GSTA1-1 levels were not significantly different from a group of 350 healthy controls and only one patient (4%) had an elevated GSTA1-1 level while 10 (42%) patients had elevated AST activities. In samples from patients with primary biliary cirrhosis (n = 150), primary sclerosing cholangitis (n = 26) or chronic hepatitis (n = 79) significantly (P < 0.0001) elevated plasma GSTA1-1 concentrations were detected in 25 (17%), 7 (27%) and 17 (22%) of the samples, respectively. AST activities were increased in a higher percentage of samples in all three disorders: 89%, 88%, and 57%, respectively. Plasma GSTA1-1 and AST levels were significantly correlated (P < 0.005) in the above mentioned disorders but not in alcoholic liver cirrhosis. It is concluded that plasma GSTA1-1 is not a sensitive parameter for the detection of hepatocellular damage in chronic liver disorders.