The significance of glucose-6-phosphatase (G6P) expression by bile duct-like cells proliferating during hepatocarcinogenesis in the histogenesis of hepatocellular carcinoma is not clear. To this end, we measured the histochemical and biochemical activity of G6P in normal rat liver, and in rat livers in which bile duct-like proliferation was induced by either hyperplastic (bile duct ligation for 14 days or feeding alpha-naphthylisothiocyanate for 28 days) or neoplastic (feeding a choline-devoid diet containing 0.1% ethionine for 60 days) regimens. In normal, hyperplastic, and preneoplastic livers, G6P histochemical activity was confined to the hepatocytes; proliferated bile duct-like cells, like normal bile ducts, did not display visible G6P staining. When the enzyme activity was determined biochemically, however, hydrolysis of glucose-6-phosphate was observed in both parenchymal and nonparenchymal liver cells isolated from all experimental animals. In elutriated nonparenchymal fractions, G6P activity was directly proportional to the number of cells positive for gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase and cytokeratin no. 19 (markers of bile duct cells) and inversely proportional to the number of cells positive for vimentin (marker of mesenchymal cells). These results indicate that, while by light microscopy hepatic G6P histochemical activity is detectable only in the hepatocytes, the biochemical activity is also expressed in proliferating bile duct-like cells. However, the nonparenchymal activity is observed during both neoplastic and hyperplastic liver growth, thus indicating that the presence of this enzyme in bile duct-like cells proliferating during hepatocarcinogenesis should not necessarily be construed as supporting their stem cell nature nor their neoplastic commitment.