Mouse liver CYP2A5 is induced by several structurally unrelated compounds. In intact mouse liver, pyrazole (PYR) and 4-hydroxypyrazole (4-OH) induce selectively the expression of CYP2A5 while expression of other CYPs is decreased. In this study we exposed mouse primary hepatocytes to PYR, 4-OH, 4-methylpyrazole (4Me; 0.1-20 mM) and 4-iodopyrazole (4-I; 0.1-5.0 mM). PYR and its derivatives increased coumarin 7-hydroxylase activity, with 4-1 and 4-OH being the strongest inducers, by 114-fold and 41-fold, respectively. However, only 4-1 treatment increased markedly the CYP2A5 protein content. CYP2B9/10-mediated pentoxyresorufin O-deethylase activity (PROD) was decreased by 80% by 4-Me and 4-1, and by 50% by 4-OH while PYR had no marked effect. PYR and 4-Me increased 2- to 3-fold the CYPA1/2-mediated ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase activity (EROD) while 4-OH and 4-1 had no marked effect on this enzyme. The time of exposure markedly affected the inducibility of 4-OH such that induction was 7-fold stronger when it was added to the incubation medium 24 h after the isolation of hepatocytes compared to exposure 3 h after their isolation. Cimetidine prevented the induction of coumarin 7-hydroxylase activity by PYR and 4-OH by 46 and 74%, respectively indicating that their effects on the expression of CYP2A5 are, at least partly, mediated via their metabolites. The data demonstrate that the regulation of CYP2A5 is different from other monooxygenases and that the effects of pyrazole and its derivatives are different in vivo and in vitro. Also, the timing of exposure markedly affects the inducibility of 4-OH in hepatocytes.