Abstract In rats and in humans, dimethylformamide (DMF) is mainly metabolized into N-hydroxymethyl- N-methylformamide (DMF-OH). The in vitro oxidation of DMF by rat liver microsomes is decreased in the presence of catalase and superoxide dismutase. The radical scavengers, dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO), tertiary butyl alcohol ( t-butanol), aminopyrine, hydroquinone and trichloroacetonitrile reduce the oxidation of DMF to DMF-OH in vitro and in vivo. Conversely, DMF inhibits the demethylation of DMSO, t-butanol and aminopyrine. The addition of iron-EDTA to the incubation system induces the production of N-methylformamide (NMF) from DMF. These results support the hypothesis that the metabolic pathway leading from DMF to DMF-OH and NMF involves hydroxyl radicals. Superoxide radical and hydrogen peroxide take part in the metabolic process. DMF is preferentially metabolized into DMF-OH. NMF appears mainly when the production of hydroxyl radicals is stimulated, the methyl group being recovered as formic acid.