Intraperitoneal administration of chloramphenicol (100 mg/kg) to phenobarbital-treated rats causes 50% inhibition of liver microsomal 7-ethoxycoumarin and 1,1,2,2 tetrachloroethane metabolism but has no effect on the level of cytochrome P-450 detectable as its carbon monoxide complex or on the NADPH-cytochrome c reductase (EC 126.96.36.199) activity. Both the endogenous NADPH oxidase activity and the enzymatic reduction of cytochrome P-450 are inhibited by chloramphenicol treatment, whereas the Km and Ks for ethoxycoumarin and the cumene hydroperoxide- or iodosobenzene-supported deethylation of ethoxycoumarin are unaffected, suggesting that impaired electron transport to cytochrome P-450 may be the cause of the loss of enzymatic activity. Administration of [14C]chloramphenicol (100 mg/kg) leads to the covalent binding of 0.7 nmole of metabolite(s) per nanomole of the major cytochrome P-450 isozyme. Alkaline hydrolysis of a cytochrome P-450 fraction obtained by chromatography of solubilized 14C-labeled microsomes on octylamino-Sepharose releases oxalic acid and chloramphenicol oxamic acid, whereas enzymatic digestion releases N-epsilon-chloramphenicol oxamyl lysine in addition. These data obtained with radiolabeled chloramphenicol suggest that the same metabolic pathways which lead to the inactivation of cytochrome P-450 in vitro are also operative in vivo.