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The current study investigated liver spheroid culture as an in vitro model to evaluate the endpoints relevant to the status of energy metabolism and biotransformation after exposure to test toxicants. Mature rat liver spheroids were exposed to diclofenac, galactosamine, isoniazid, paracetamol, m-dinitrobenzene (m-DNB) and 3-nitroaniline (3-NA) for 24 h. Pyruvate uptake, galactose biotransformation, lactate release and glucose secretion were evaluated after exposure. The results showed that pyruvate uptake and lactate release by mature liver spheroids in culture were maintained at a relatively stable level. These endpoints, together with glucose secretion and galactose biotransformation, were related to and could reflect the status of energy metabolism and biotransformation in hepatocytes. After exposure, all of the test agents significantly reduced glucose secretion, which was shown to be the most sensitive endpoint of those evaluated. Diclofenac, isoniazid, paracetamol and galactosamine reduced lactate release (P < 0.01), but m-DNB increased lactate release (P < 0.01). Diclofenac, isoniazid and paracetamol also reduced pyruvate uptake (P < 0.01), while galactosamine had little discernible effect. Diclofenac, galactosamine, paracetamol and m-DNB also reduced galactose biotransformation (P < 0.01), by contrast, isoniazid did not. The metabolite of m-DNB, 3-NA, which served as a negative control, did not cause significant changes in lactate release, pyruvate uptake or galactose biotransformation. It is concluded that pyruvate uptake, galactose biotransformation, lactate release and glucose secretion can be used as endpoints for evaluating the status of energy metabolism and biotransformation after exposure to test agents using the liver spheroid model to pre-screen hepatotoxicity.