Cholesterol regulates hepatic 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A (HMG-CoA) reductase activity by feedback inhibition. It has been suggested that oxidized derivatives of cholesterol (oxysterols) play an important role, as an intracellular mediator, in the feedback inhibition of cholesterol biosynthesis. We, therefore, investigated the role of intracellular oxysterols in the regulation of HMG-CoA reductase activity. Rats were fed with food (control), cholesterol, clofibrate as a potentiator of the microsomal monooxygenase cytochrome P-450 enzyme system, ketoconazole as a strong inhibitor of the system, or butylated hydroxytoluene (BHT) as an antioxidant. We analyzed and compared hepatic microsomal oxysterol levels among the groups. The results of this study indicated that the oxysterol level, especially 7beta-hydroxycholesterol and 7-ketocholestrol, in the liver was lowered by the administration of ketoconazole and BHT, and HMG-CoA reductase activity was increased in response to these agents. However, there was no change in the HMG-CoA reductase activity, after the administration of clofibrate. We conclude that reduced levels of oxysterol may release the inhibitory effect on the HMG-CoA reductase enzyme and lead to up-regulation of the enzyme.