Involvement of the mercapturic acid pathway in the induction of splenomegaly and skin and lung pathology by hexachlorobenzene (HCB) in the rat was investigated by seeking to determine whether pentachloronitrobenzene (PCNB) has the same inflammatory effects as HCB, since both compounds are directly conjugated to glutathione, and further processed into the same mercapturic acid metabolites which are excreted via the urine. Female Brown Norway (BN/SsNOlaHsd) rats at 3 to 4 weeks of age were orally exposed to diets with or without supplementation with 450 mg HCB or equimolar (467 mg) or higher (934 mg) amounts of PCNB per kilogram of diet over 4 weeks. Gross skin lesion development and body weight gains were assessed during exposure and spleen and liver weights as well as histopathologic changes in skin and lung were assessed after exposure. After 3 weeks of exposure, urinary metabolites of the mercapturic acid and oxidative biotransformation pathways were identified using high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry (LC-MS). Oral exposure of the rats to 450 mg/kg HCB resulted in an increase in relative spleen and liver weights as well as in the development of skin and lung pathology in the absence of overall liver toxicity. Equimolar or higher concentrations of PCNB caused none of these effects. Urinary levels of the mercapturic acid N-acetyl-S-(pentachlorophenyl)-cysteine (PCP-NAC), were comparable in HCB- and PCNB-treated rats. Levels of closely related methylsulfide derivatives of PCP-NAC, also generated via the same mercapturic acid pathway, appeared to be significantly higher in PCNB- than in HCB-treated rats, whereas the reverse was true for the urinary levels of the oxidative metabolite pentachlorophenol (PCP). Thus, results indicate that metabolites of the mercapturic acid pathway are not involved in the induction of splenomegaly and skin and lung pathology caused by HCB exposure in BN rats and that the main urinary metabolite of HCB in these BN rats is PCP. Since PCP itself, as well as other cytochrome P450-derived metabolites from HCB, are not likely to be involved in the induction of splenomegaly and skin and lung pathology, it is suggested that either the parent compound HCB or as-yet-unidentified non-P450-generated metabolites are involved in these inflammatory effects of HCB.