The metabolic fate of the nigrostriatal toxin 1-methyl-4-phenyl-l, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine (MPTP) has been examined in rat and rabbit liver mitochondrial and rabbit liver microsomal preparations. The mitochondrial preparations rapidly oxidized MPTP, in a pargyline-sensitive reaction, to a polar material that was shown to contain the 1-methyl-4-phenylpyridinium species as the principal product. NADPH-supplemented microsomal preparations converted MPTP to two principal products: 4-phenyl-l, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine and 1-methyl-4-phenyl-l, 2, 3, 6-tetrahydropyridine N-oxide. Carbon monoxide and SKF 525A selectively inhibited the oxidation of MPTP to the nor compound, indicating that this N-demethylation reaction is cytochrome P-450 catalyzed. Attempts to trap possible unstable iminium metabolites of MPTP in microsomal incubation mixtures with sodium cyanide led to the isolation of a monocyano adduct that proved to be the N-cyanomethyl derivative. Thus, hepatic mitochondrial and microsomal enzyme systems catalyze the oxidation of MPTP by different pathways, the former leading to the generation of species that may possess neurotoxic properties.