Pathological elevations of the plasma activities of liver enzymes are not simply related to the quantitative release of such enzymes from the liver. Several enzymatic indices, such as the well-known de Ritis quotient, may be determined by differences in the time course of hepatic enzyme release, rather than reflecting true differences in the released quantities of various enzymes. A more quantitative use of enzymatic data is hampered by the fact that the fractional catabolic rate constants for the elimination of enzyme activities from plasma are unknown. In the present study, three of these constants are estimated by comparison of the time-activity curves in plasma with the corresponding curve of a simultaneously released, more slowly eliminated reference enzyme. This method can be applied in patients with an acute short period of hepatic enzyme release. Values obtained for the cytosolic isoforms of lactate dehydrogenase, AST and ALT are: fractional catabolic rate constant (lactate dehydrogenase isoenzyme 5) = 0.13 +/- 0.01 hr-1, fractional catabolic rate constant (cytosolic AST) = 0.088 +/- 0.016 hr-1 and fractional catabolic rate constant (cytosolic ALT) = 0.034 +/- 0.004 hr-1 (mean +/- S.E., n = 10). These values are much higher than the apparent disappearance rate constants, because of extravascular return of activity and tailing release of enzymes during the major part of the elimination phase. It is shown that these results are consistent with earlier published data on the disappearance rates from plasma of lactate dehydrogenase, AST and ALT after acute liver injury. Cumulative release of various cytosolic enzymes occurred in proportion to the corresponding activities in human control livers.