n-Propylxanthate (nPX) inactivated the 7-ethoxy-4-(trifluoromethyl)coumarin (7-EFC) O-deethylation activity of purified, reconstituted rat hepatic P450 2B1 or human P450 2B6 in a mechanism-based manner. The inactivation followed pseudo-first-order kinetics and was entirely dependent on both NADPH and nPX. The maximal rate constant for inactivation of P450 2B1 at 30 degrees C was 0.2 min-1. The apparent KI was 44 microM, and the half-time for inactivation was 4.1 min. Purified, reconstituted human P450 2B6 was also inactivated by nPX with a KI of 12 microM. The kinactivation for P450 2B6 was 0.06 min-1, and the t1/2 was 11 min. Incubations of P450 2B1 with nPX and NADPH for 20 min resulted in a 75% loss in enzymatic activity and a concurrent 25% loss of the enzyme's ability to form a reduced CO complex. Little loss in the absolute spectrum of nPX-inactivated P450 2B1 was observed. With P450 2B6, an 83% loss in enzymatic activity and a 12% loss in the CO-reduced spectra were observed. The extrapolated partition ratio for nPX with P450 2B1 was 32. P450 2B1 could be protected from inactivation by nPX by adding an alternate substrate to the reaction mixture. Removal of unbound nPX by dialysis did not reverse the inactivation. The alternate oxidant iodosobenzene was able to partially restore enzymatic activity to nPX-inactivated P450 2B1 samples. A stoichiometry for labeling of 1.2:1 for binding of radiolabeled nPX metabolite to P450 2B1 was seen. These results indicated that nPX inactivated P450 2B1 and P450 2B6 in a mechanism-based manner. P450 2B1 was inactivated primarily by a nPX reactive intermediate that bound to the apoprotein.