In the process of isolated single liver cells coming together to form three-dimensional spheroids, cells undergo dramatic environmental changes. How liver cells respond to these changes has not been well studied before. This study characterized the functional and biochemical changes during liver spheroid formation and maintenance. Spheroids were prepared in 6-well plates from freshly isolated liver cells from male Sprague rats by a gyrotatory-mediated method. Morphological formation, and functional and biochemical parameters of liver spheroids were evaluated over a period of 21 days in culture. Liver spheroid formation was divided into two stages, immature (1–5 days) and mature (>5 days), according to their size and shape, and changes in their functionality. Galactose and pyruvate consumption was maintained at a relatively stable level throughout the period of observation. However, glucose secretion and cellular GPT and GOT activities were higher in immature spheroids, decreased upto day 5 and remained stable thereafter. Cellular γ-glutamyltransferase (γ-GT) and lactate dehydrogenase (LDH) activities were initially undetectable or low and increased as spheroids matured. Albumin secretion decreased rapidly within the first 2 days and increased as spheroids matured. It is concluded that cells undergo functional and biochemical changes during spheroid formation following isolation of liver cells from intact tissue. Functionality and biochemical properties recovered and were maintained in mature spheroids. A relatively stable period (6–15 days) of functionality in mature spheroids was identified and is recommended for applications of the model. © 2003 Wiley-Liss, Inc.