Abstract In this paper we report on the metabolic response of human hepatocytes grown on polyethersulfone membranes surface modified with a plasma-deposited acrylic acid coating and RGD peptide covalently immobilized through a “spacer arm” molecule. The modified surfaces were characterized by means of X-ray photoelectron spectroscopy and water contact angle measurements. The performance of modified and unmodified membranes was evaluated by assessing the expression of liver specific and biotransformation functions of human hepatocytes. Diclofenac, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug, was used to investigate the biotransformation functions. Surface-modified membranes elicit specific cellular responses and induce hepatocytes to enhance the synthesis rate of albumin and urea, particularly in the presence of diclofenac. Also the biotransformation functions were expressed at high levels.