These studies examine the in vivo formation of a unique series of PGF2-like compounds (F2-isoprostanes) derived from free radical-catalyzed nonenzymatic peroxidation of arachidonic acid. We have previously shown that levels of these compounds increase up to 50-fold in rats administered CCl4. To understand further the formation of these compounds in vivo, we carried out a series of experiments assessing factors influencing their generation. After CCl4 (2 ml/kg) was administered to rats, plasma F2-isoprostanes increased 55-fold by 4 h. Levels declined thereafter, but at 24 h, they were still elevated 21-fold, indicating continued lipid peroxidation. Pretreatment of rats with isonicotinic acid hydrazide and phenobarbital to induce cytochrome P-450 enhanced the production of F2-isoprostanes after CCl4 administration eightfold and fivefold, respectively, whereas inhibition of the cytochrome P-450 system with SKF-525A and 4-methylpyrazole decreased formation of F2-isoprostanes after CCl4 by 55 and 82%, respectively. Further, the glutathione-depleting agents buthionine sulfoximine and phorone augmented the F2-isoprostane response to CCl4 by 22- and 11-fold, respectively. F2-isoprostanes are formed in situ esterified to lipids and, in addition to increases in levels of free F2-isoprostanes in the circulation, levels of F2-isoprostanes esterified to lipids in various organs and plasma also increase sharply during CCl4 poisoning. The measurement of F2-isoprostanes may facilitate investigation of the role of lipid peroxidation in human diseases.