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Methapyrilene, [N, N-dimethyl-N′-pyridyl-N′(2-thienylmethyl)-1,2-ethanediamine] (MP) was withdrawn from, clinical use due to reported periportal hepatic necrosis and hepatocarcinogenicity in the rat, via S-oxidation of the thiophene group. In this study MP is used as a model hepatotoxin to further characterise the functional consequences of S-oxidation of the thiophene group in vivo, in rat models and in vitro, in freshly isolated rat hepatocyte suspensions. In vivo histological studies revealed the early depletion of glutathione (GSH), which was confined to the damaged periportal area, in contrast to an increase in GSH levels in the centrilobular region. Additionally, the induction of cell defence was demonstrated by an increase in the protein levels of heme-oxygenase 1 (HO-1) and glutamate cysteine ligase, catalytic subunit (GCLC) in vivo. Histological examination demonstrated that cytotoxicity progresses initially via apoptosis before an increase in necrosis over the 3-day administration. An apoptotic-like mechanism was observed in vitro via the measurement of cytochrome c release and caspase activation. Conclusion: This study provides evidence for a complex pathway of MP-induced hepatotoxicity which progresses through early adaptation, apoptosis, necrosis and inflammation, all underpinned by the zonal induction and depletion of GSH within the liver.