20-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid (20-HETE), an omega-hydroxylated arachidonic acid (AA) metabolite, elicits specific effects on kidney vascular and tubular function that, in turn, influence blood pressure control. The human kidney's capacity to convert AA to 20-HETE is unclear, however, as is the underlying P450 catalyst. Microsomes from human kidney cortex were found to convert AA to a single major product, namely 20-HETE, but failed to catalyze AA epoxygenation and midchain hydroxylation. Despite the monophasic nature of renal AA omega-hydroxylation kinetics, immunochemical studies revealed participation of two P450s, CYP4F2 and CYP4A11, since antibodies to these enzymes inhibited 20-HETE formation by 65. 9 +/- 17 and 32.5 +/- 14%, respectively. Western blotting confirmed abundant expression of these CYP4 proteins in human kidney and revealed that other AA-oxidizing P450s, including CYP2C8, CYP2C9, and CYP2E1, were not expressed. Immunocytochemistry showed CYP4F2 and CYP4A11 expression in only the S2 and S3 segments of proximal tubules in cortex and outer medulla. Our results demonstrate that CYP4F2 and CYP4A11 underlie conversion of AA to 20-HETE, a natriuretic and vasoactive eicosanoid, in human kidney. Considering their proximal tubular localization, these P450 enzymes may partake in pivotal renal functions, including the regulation of salt and water balance, and arterial blood pressure itself.