Sulfation is considered a high-affinity but low-capacity conjugation mechanism that is limited by the availability of 3'-phosphoadenosine 5'-phosphosulfate (PAPS), the cosubstrate for sulfation. Salicylamide, phenol and 1-naphthol are all known substrates for the sulfation reaction. This study was conducted to determine whether the xenobiotics that are sulfated when administered to rats will lower hepatic PAPS and its precursor, sulfate. Urinary sulfate excretion was reduced 85% to 95% by these compounds. Hepatic PAPS was reduced 73%, 39%, and 87% by salicylamide, phenol and naphthol, respectively, 2 hr after administration of 2 mmol/kg. These compounds also decreased serum sulfate concentrations by 45% to 86% and lowered hepatic sulfate concentrations. In summary, these studies demonstrate that salicylamide, phenol and 1-naphthol lower hepatic PAPS and sulfate concentrations, as well as serum sulfate concentrations. These findings imply that increased sulfation, as a result of the sulfation of xenobiotics, results in depletion of hepatic PAPS concentrations, possibly because the utilization of PAPS by the sulfotransferases exceeds its generation via sulfate activation. Thus the capacity-limited sulfation of high dosages of xenobiotics appears to be due to the reduced availability of hepatic PAPS, which in turn is limited by the availability of sulfate.