1. Debrisoquine, a prototypic probe substrate for human cytochrome P4502D6 (CYP2D6), is hydroxylated at the alicyclic C4-position by this enzyme. Phenolic metabolites of debrisoquine (5-, 6-, 7- and 8-hydroxydebrisoquine) have also been reported as in vivo metabolites, but the role of CYP2D6 in their formation is unclear. 2. As part of studies to develop a predictive model of the active site of CYP2D6 using pharmacophore and homology modelling techniques, it became important to determine the precise regioselective hydroxylation of debrisoquine by CYP2D6. 3. Data from studies with human liver microsomes and yeast microsomes containing cDNA-derived CYP2D6 demonstrated unequivocally that debrisoquine was hydroxylated by CYP2D6 at each aromatic site in the molecule, as well as at the alicyclic 4-position. The four phenolic metabolites amounted to > 60% of the total identified products and the pattern of regioselective hydroxylation (4-HD > 7-HD > 6-HD > 8-HD > 5-HD) was similar in both in vitro systems. 4. A pharmacophore model for CYP2D6 indicated that while the hydroxylation of debrisoquine at alternative positions could arise from the substrate adopting multiple binding orientations, the energy constraints for the aromatic hydroxylations were unfavourable. An alternative proposal involving essentially a single binding orientation and a mechanism of hydroxylation based on benzylic radical spin delocalization could satisfactorily rationalize all the hydroxylations of debrisoquine. 5. This latter proposal demonstrates the need to consider the mechanism of oxidation as well as the spatial orientation of the substrate in the development of a predictive model of the active site of CYP2D6.