Abstract Toxic endogenous or exogenous compounds can be inactivated by various conjugation reactions. Glucuronidation (i.e. conjugation with glucuronate) is especially important due to the large number of drugs and chemical carcinogens that are detoxified through this pathway. Stable and harmless glucuronides can be reactivated by enzymatic hydrolysis thus inhibitors of glucuronidase activity reduce the risk of chemical carcinogenesis. The aim of this study was to reveal whether this mechanism contributes to the anti-cancer effect of green tea flavanols, which has been shown in various animal models. Therefore, we investigated the effect of these polyphenols on deglucuronidation in rat liver microsomes and in Hepa 1c1c7 mouse hepatoma cells, using 4-methylumbelliferyl glucuronide as model substrate. Tea flavanols inhibited β-glucuronidase in intact vesicles, where glucuronide transport across the microsomal membrane is rate-limiting, but were almost ineffective in permeabilized vesicles. Epigallocatechin gallate, the major green tea flavanol was shown to have a concentration-dependent inhibitory effect on both β-glucuronidase activity and glucuronide transport in native vesicles. Epigallocatechin gallate also inhibited β-glucuronidase activity in native Hepa 1c1c7 mouse hepatoma cells, while failed to affect the enzyme in alamethicin-permeabilized cells, where the endoplasmic membrane barrier was eliminated. Our findings indicate that tea flavanols inhibit deglucuronidation in the endoplasmic reticulum at the glucuronide transport stage. This phenomenon might potentially contribute to the cancer-preventing dietary or pharmacological effect attributed to these catechins.