With the use of an extensively modified Leibovitz-15 medium, the alcohol dehydrogenase activity of hepatocytes prepared from male rats was successfully maintained in primary culture at the level observed in freshly isolated hepatocytes. Enzyme activity was higher in freshly isolated cells from female rats than from male rats, but it fell to the level characteristic of the male animals after four days in culture. The levels of activity of the cells in culture from both sexes were unaffected by treatment with estrogens or androgens. The results suggest that the sex-determined differences in alcohol dehydrogenase activity in rats do not arise from direct effects of gonadal steroids on the liver. © 1985.