Presystemic sulphation and glucuronidation at OH-C17 limits the bioavailability of testosterone; the aim of this investigation was to describe the variability in testosterone sulphation and glucuronidation rates in the human liver. Liver samples were obtained from 61 women and 40 men of similar age (mean 53 and 55 years, respectively) submitted to surgery. The mean rate of testosterone sulphation was significantly (P = 0.002) higher in men (22.4 pmol/min/mg) than in women (17.5 pmol/min/mg), was not age-dependent, followed bimodal distribution and varied over 7-fold in men and women. There was a weak, but significant negative correlation (r = -0.380; P = 0.003), between the rate of testosterone glucuronidation and age in the liver of women but not in that of men. The mean rate (pmol/min/mg) of testosterone glucuronidation was 155 (men) and 105 (women) (NS) and varied over 20-fold. When the rate of testosterone glucuronidation was expressed on the basis of g liver equivalent, the mean estimates were significantly (P = 0.003) greater in men (3323 pmol/min/g) than in women (1841 pmol/min/g). The present findings are consistent with the view that the hepatic activities of sulphotransferase and glucuronosyltransferase are higher in men than in women and that they vary in the human liver.