The tumor-associated aldehyde dehydrogenase 3 (ALDH3) and the glutathione transferase (GST)Ya form are coded by members of the Ah (aryl hydrocarbon) battery group of genes activated in the liver by polycyclic hydrocarbons such as 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD). The physiological role of the Ah receptor (AHR), its gene-activating mechanism and its endogenous ligands are still poorly clarified. We had previously observed that 3-methylcholanthrene (3MC) and beta-naphthoflavone (betaNF) induced the AHR-associated CYP1A1/1A2 pair in different liver regions, an effect not explained by the acinar distribution of the AHR protein. Here, we investigated AHR-associated regional induction by comparing the expression patterns of ALDH3 and GSTYa. Analysis of samples from periportal and perivenous cell lysates from 3MC-treated animals revealed that ALDH3 mRNA, protein and benzaldehyde-NADP associated activity were all confined to the perivenous region. In contrast, such regio-specific induction was not seen after beta-NF induction. Immunohistochemically, a peculiar mono- or oligocellular induction pattern of ALDH3 was seen, consistently surrounding terminal hepatic veins after 3MC but mainly in the midzonal region after betaNF. A ligand-specific difference in regional induction of GSTYa1 mRNA was also observed: The constitutive perivenous dominance was preserved after 3MC while induction by betaNF was mainly periportal. A 3MC-betaNF difference was also seen by immunohistochemistry and at the GSTYa protein level, in contrast to that of the AHR-unassociated GSTYb protein. However, experiments with hepatocytes isolated from the periportal or perivenous region to replicate these inducer-specific induction responses in vitro were unsuccessful. These data demonstrate that the different acinar induction patterns by 3MC and betaNF previously observed for CYP1A1 and CYP1A2 are seen also for two other Ah battery genes, GSTYa1 and ALDH3, but in a modified, gene-specific form. We hypothesize that unknown protein(s) operating in vivo and modifying the Ah-mediated response at the common XRE element located upstream of these genes is affected zonespecifically by 3MC and betaNF.