Ethanol, acetone, diet and starvation, known modulators of the hepatic cytochrome P450 (CYP)-dependent microsomal monooxygenase system, were assessed for their effects on cytochrome P450 isozyme content and monooxygenase activities in the male rat kidney. In acute experiments, rats were either treated with acetone, fasted or given a combination of the two treatments. Acetone treatment alone induced CYP2E1-dependent p-nitrophenol hydroxylase activity in kidney microsomes by 8-fold. This was accompanied by a 6-fold increase in CYP2E1 apoprotein as determined by Western blot analysis. There was, however, no significant increase in steady-state levels of CYP2E1 mRNA as measured by Northern blot analysis. Starvation also induced CYP2E1 apoprotein in the kidney and, as has been reported previously in the liver, had a synergistic inductive effect with acetone. CYP2B and CYP3A apoproteins were also induced by acetone, starvation and starvation/acetone combinations in the kidney. Immunohistochemical analysis revealed localization of CYP2E1 and CYP2B principally in the cortex associated with tubular cells. This distribution was maintained upon starvation/acetone treatment. Two induction experiments were performed in which the ethanol was administered as part of a system of total enteral nutrition (TEN). A short-term study was conducted in which ethanol was administered for 8 days in two liquid diets of different composition, and a chronic experiment was performed in which ethanol was administered for 35 days. A diet-independent 6-fold increase in CYP2E1 apoprotein was observed in the short-term experiment. Expression of CYP3A and CYP2A cross-reactive apoproteins in kidney microsomes appeared to be affected by alterations in diet but, were unaffected by ethanol treatment. In the chronic 35-day ethanol exposure experiment, CYP2E1 apoprotein was also elevated 6-fold and this was found to be accompanied by a significant 3-fold increase in CYP2E1 mRNA. In the same study, no ethanol effects were apparent on expression of CYP2B and CYP3A apoproteins. Thus, acetone induced a variety of renal cytochrome P450 forms in addition to CYP2E1, while ethanol appeared to be a much more specific renal CYP2E1 inducer. Furthermore, as reported in the liver, acetone and ethanol appeared to induce CYP2E1 in the kidney by different mechanisms.