Since the discovery that interferon inducers depress hepatic drug metabolism, the depressant action of cytochrome P450 (P450) has been demonstrated to be shared by cytokines such as interferon alpha/beta and interferon gamma as well as interleukin-1 and tumor necrosis factor. Because these cytokines are inflammatory mediators, it is not surprising that theophylline toxicity has been reported in patients with influenza B epidemic. Hence, to lay a foundation for studies of altered steroid and drug metabolism, the alteration of P450 isozymes was studied after polyriboinosinic acid:polyribocitidylic acid (poly I:poly C) administration. Twenty-four hours after poly I:poly C administration, hepatic P450 content decreased to 57% of control, whereas depression of other microsomal enzymes was less pronounced: P450 reductase (69%), cytochrome b5 (74%) and NADH-cytochrome b5 reductase (85%). The depression of mRNA for cytochrome P450 1A1, 1A2, 2C11 and 2E1 was more than 60% of the controls. Recovery of mRNA levels was not complete within 72 hr. The changes in mRNAs, in general, paralleled alterations of monooxygenase activities and P450 isozyme content suggesting that the effect of poly I:poly C is pretranslational for all P450 isozymes studied. No overt differential effect on P450 isozymes was found after an administration of poly I:poly C. This study complements the previous report which demonstrated down-regulation of mRNA for cytochrome P450 2C11 and 3A2.