Quinones represent a very important class of compounds found in nature and for the chemically synthesized drugs. The present study was designed to elucidate the intestinal first pass metabolic pathways in vivo and in vitro, of tanshinone IIA (TS), a derivative of phenanthrene-quinone isolated from Salvia miltiorrhiza. Five metabolites, proposed to be TS catechol glucuronides (two position isomers), dehydrotanshinone IIA and its two catechol glucuronides, were identified from the rat intestinal homogenates after oral administration of TS. TS metabolism was further conducted in the subcellular system including cytosol, microsomes, mitochondrial and S9 under both phase I and phase II metabolic conditions. TS underwent negligible metabolism in all of the subcellular systems under phase I metabolic condition using NADPH as the cofactor. However, significant and substantial metabolic elimination of TS was observed in the cytosol and S9 fractions, while not in the microsomes fractions, when both NADPH and UDPGA were added. Two TS catechol glucuronides were identified from such an in vitro metabolic medium. Dicoumarol, a specific inhibitor of the NAD(P)H dependent quinone oxidoreductase (NQO1), significantly inhibited the metabolic elimination of TS in a noncompetitive way, suggesting that NQO1 was responsible for the quinone reduction of TS to form the catechol intermediate. The catechol intermediate failed to be detected directly was proved to be highly unstable and autoxidized back to TS accompanied with hydrogen peroxide generation. Dicoumarol exhibited a significant inhibitory effect on the hydrogen peroxide generation, further supporting that the reduction of TS was catalyzed by NQO1. The absolute bioavailability of TS was significantly enhanced by oral dicoumarol pretreatment. In conclusion, a novel intestinal metabolic pathway for quinones, NQO1 mediated reduction and subsequent glucuronidation, was determined using TS as a model compound. This study should be helpful for the general understanding of quinones absorption and intestinal first pass metabolism.