The effects of glucocorticoid treatment on the induction of hepatic metallothionein (MT) during inflammation initiated by turpentine oil (TUR) or endotoxin (LPS) were studied in mice. The administration of TUR increased concentrations of hepatic MT as well as that of plasma fibrinogen. Although hepatic MT was modestly induced by dexamethasone (DEX) alone, pretreatment with DEX (12.5 to 100 mg/kg, sc) inhibited the increases both in hepatic MT and in plasma fibrinogen from a subsequent dose of TUR 6 hr after DEX administration. The concentration of hepatic MT in the DEX-pretreated (25 mg/kg) group was higher than that in the nonpretreated group 4 hr after administration of TUR, but after 24 hr, the MT concentration in the DEX-pretreated group was inhibited to 20% of that in the nonpretreated group. These inhibitory effects were also observed by prednisolone (PRE) but not by salicylic acid. The inhibitory effect of DEX on the induction of MT synthesis during inflammation was observed after administration of the exudate obtained from inflamed tissue. When inflammation was initiated by an injection of LPS as well as TUR, pretreatment of either DEX or PRE inhibited the increase of hepatic MT. Pretreatment of DEX did not affect the induction of hepatic MT synthesis by cadmium. In contrast to inflammation initiated by TUR or LPS, pretreatment of DEX caused an additive increase of hepatic MT concentration after administration of zinc. These results suggest that glucocorticoids, despite being direct inducers of MT, inhibit the induction of MT synthesis during inflammation by the suppression of cytokine production.