Polybrominated diphenyl ethers (PBDEs) are brominated flame retardants that persist in the environment and are present in geographically widespread fish species. PBDE concentrations can be particularly high in resident Chinook salmon (Onchorhynchus tshawytscha) in the Puget Sound, Washington. Although PBDE residues in salmon and other fish are often dominated by lower brominated congeners, these congeners are not produced commercially in the greatest quantity, suggesting bioaccumulation of the lower molecular weight PBDEs or debromination of more fully brominated congeners. We determined the capacity of Chinook liver fractions to debrominate 2,2',4,4',5-pentabromodiphenyl ether (BDE 99), a model PBDE congener readily debrominated by common carp (Cyprinus caprio). Liver subcellular fractions from two strains of Chinook were incubated with BDE 99 prior to liquid/liquid extraction followed by gas chromatography/mass spectrometry analysis (GC/MS analysis) to identify metabolites and debromination products. In contrast to common carp, debromination of BDE 99 to BDE 47 (2,2',4,4'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether) was not observed in microsomal fractions from either strain of Chinook salmon. However, Chinook salmon liver microsomes from both Chinook strains slowly debrominated BDE 99 to BDE 49 (2,2',4,5'-tetrabromodiphenyl ether), a unique debromination product whose formation has not been reported in other fish. Three-year-old males belonging to a Rapid River Spring Chinook salmon genetic strain showed a somewhat greater microsomal debromination capacity than older hatchery returning male Chinook, but were still inefficient in the debromination of BDE 99 relative to carp. Microsomal debromination of BDE 99 to BDE 49 was not NADPH-dependent, indicating a lack of cytochrome P450 involvement. By contrast, omission of the reductant dithiothreitol (DTT) from Chinook microsomal preparations resulted in a lack of BDE 99 debromination, suggesting the involvement of a microsomal reductase(s) or deiodinase (DI). Cytosolic fractions from Chinook salmon and Common carp debrominated BDE 99 to BDE 49 in vitro. However, carp cytosolic enzymes preferentially formed BDE 47. In summary, our data indicate significant differences among teleosts with respect to efficiency and metabolite profiles of BDE 99 debromination, and suggest that the high concentrations of BDE 47 in resident Chinook salmon from the Puget Sound are not a result of hepatic metabolism of BDE 99. The results of our study also suggest the involvement of an unidentified hepatic reductase or DI in PBDE debromination in fish.