1. The formation of free radicals during enzyme catalysed oxidation of eight 3,5-disubstituted analogues of paracetamol (PAR) has been studied. A simple peroxidase system as well as cytochrome P450-containing systems were used. Radicals were detected by electron spin resonance (ESR) on incubation of PAR and 3,5-diCH3-, 3,5-diC2H5-, 3,5-ditC4H9-, 3,5-diOCH3-, 3,5- diSCH3-, 3,5-diF-, 3,5-diCl- and 3,5-diBr-substituted analogues of PAR with horseradish peroxidase in the presence of hydrogen peroxide (H2O2). Initial analysis of the observed ESR spectra revealed all radical species to be phenoxy radicals, based on the absence of dominant nitrogen hyperfine splittings. No radicals were detected in rat liver cytochrome P450-containing microsomal or reconstituted systems. 2. To rationalize the observed ESR spectra, hydrogen atom abstraction of PAR and four of the 3,5-disubstituted analogues (3,5-diCH3-, 3,5-diOCH3-, 3,5-diF- and 3,5-diCl-PAR) was calculated using ab initio calculations, and a singlet oxygen atom was used as the oxidizing species. The calculations indicated that for all compounds studied an initial hydrogen atom abstraction from the phenolic hydroxyl group is favoured by approximately 125 kJ/mol over an initial hydrogen atom abstraction from the acetylamino nitrogen atom, and that after hydrogen abstraction from the phenolic hydroxyl group, the unpaired electron remains predominantly localised at the phenoxy oxygen atom (±85%). 3. The experimental finding of phenoxy radicals in horseradish peroxidase/H2O2 incubations paralleled these theoretical findings. The failure to detect experimentally phenoxy radicals in cytochrome P450-catalysed oxidation of any of the eight 3,5-disubstituted PAR analogues is more likely due to the reducing effects that agents like NADPH and protein thiol groups have on phenoxy radicals rather than on the physical instability of the respective substrate radicals.