Pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole, which are potent inhibitors of alcohol dehydrogenase, inhibited the oxidation of ethanol and of dimethyl sulfoxide by two model hydroxyl radical-generating systems. The systems used were the iron-catalyzed oxidation of ascorbic acid and the coupled oxidation of xanthine by xanthine oxidase. Pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole were more effective inhibitors at lower substrate concentrations than at higher substrate concentrations; the oxidation of ethanol was inhibited to a greater extent than the oxidation of dimethyl sulfoxide. These results are consistent with competition between pyrazole or 4-methylpyrazole with the substrates for the generated hydroxyl radicals. Pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole appear to be equally effective in reacting with hydroxyl radicals. An approximate rate constant of about 8 × 109 m-1 s-1 was calculated from the inhibition curves, indicating that pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole are potent scavengers of the hydroxyl radical. Previous studies have implicated a role for hydroxyl radicals in the microsomal pathway of ethanol oxidation. In the presence of azide (to inhibit catalase), pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole inhibited the NADPH-dependent microsomal oxidation of ethanol, as well as several other hydroxyl radical-scavenging agents. This inhibition by pyrazole and by 4-methylpyrazole may reflect a mechanism involving competition for hydroxyl radicals generated by the microsomes. However, the kinetics of inhibition by pyrazole were mixed, not competitive, and pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole also inhibited aminopyrine demethylase activity. Pyrazole has been shown by others to interact with cytochrome P-450. It is suggested that pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole affect microsomal oxidation of ethanol via effects on the mixed-function oxidase system and via competition for the generated hydroxyl radicals. In view of these results, low concentrations of pyrazole and 4-methylpyrazole should be used in studies on pathways of alcohol metabolism, and caution should be made in interpreting the actions of these compounds when used at high concentrations.