Summary The present study was undertaken in rats to determine whether zinc protects against endotoxin hepatotoxicity and mortality. Treatment with zinc (50–200 μmol/kg body weight) alone or endotoxin (lipopolysaccharide B, Escherichia coli 026:B6, Difco, 2 mg/kg body weight) alone did not induce significant morphological changes in the liver parenchyma or any abnormalities in liver function tests. The mortality rate was 0 %. In the rats pretreated with 100 μmol of zinc and then injected with endotoxin, the mortality rate, the incidence of focal hepatocellular coagulative necrosis and serum transaminase activity increased markedly. Eleven of the 12 rats pretreated with 200 μmol of zinc died within 4 h after endotoxin injection. In the rats pretreated with 50 μmol of zinc and then injected with endotoxin, there was no conspicuous change, in the mortality rate, liver function tests or morphology of the liver. These experimental data indicate that zinc increases the mortality rate in endotoxemic rats and augments biochemical and morphological evidence of endotoxin hepatotoxicity.