Numerous in vitro studies have indicated that acetaminophen is activated by mouse hepatic microsomal cytochrome P450 to form N-acetylbenzoquinone imine. This in turn covalently binds through a Michael addition to protein sulfhydryl and amino groups. Although acetaminophen adducts of several cytosolic proteins have been purified after its administration in vivo, no adducts of specific microsomal proteins have been reported. We find that, after the in vitro incubation of mouse hepatic microsomes with [ring- 14C]acetaminophen in the presence of an NADPH generating system, 95% of the bound radioactivity was associated with adducts to three intraluminal microsomal proteins: calreticulin and the two forms of thiol:protein disulfide oxidoreductase, Q2 and Q5. The acetaminophen bound to 0.35, 1.32, and 0.25 mol/mol of the three proteins, respectively. Sequencing of the 14C-labeled tryptic peptides indicated that the acetaminophen bound to lysine 103 of Q2, lysines 202, 209 or 210 and 354 of Q5 and lysines 233 or 239 of calreticulin. No adducts of cysteine residues were observed. Our data might suggest that acetaminophen hepatotoxicity results from the formation of the reactive metabolite within the endoplasmic reticulum. This then binds to these essential proteins and blocks the posttranslational modification of secretory and membrane proteins. This inhibition could then lead to cellular injury and death.