The objective of this study was to determine the effect of chronic maternal administration of moderate-dose ethanol on alcohol dehydrogenase, low Km aldehyde dehydrogenase, and high Km aldehyde dehydrogenase activities in the guinea pig at near-term pregnancy. The activity of each enzyme in the maternal liver, fetal liver, and placenta of the guinea pig at 59 days of gestation (term, 66 days) was determined spectrophotometrically following chronic daily oral administration of two doses of 1 g ethanol/kg maternal body weight or isocaloric sucrose solution. There was no experimental evidence of ethanol-induced malnutrition in the mother or growth retardation in the fetus. There was a statistically significant increase (65%) in the microsomal cytochrome P-450 content of the maternal liver for the ethanol treatment compared with the sucrose treatment. The alcohol dehydrogenase, low Km aldehyde dehydrogenase, and high Km aldehyde dehydrogenase activities in the maternal liver, fetal liver, and placenta were not statistically different for the ethanol-treated compared with the sucrose-treated animals. This also was the case for the maternal blood and fetal blood ethanol and acetaldehyde concentrations, determined at 2h after maternal administration of 1 g ethanol/kg maternal body weight. These data demonstrate that the ethanol- and acetaldehyde-oxidizing enzyme activities in the maternal-placental-fetal unit of the guinea pig at near-term pregnancy were not changed by chronic administration of moderate-dose ethanol.