Hepatocyte nuclear factor 4 (HNF4) is a member of the nuclear receptor super-family that has shown activating effects on particular cytochrome P450 (CYP) promoters from several species. However, its role in the regulation of human CYPs in the liver is still poorly understood, as no comprehensive studies in human-relevant models have been performed. In the present study, we have investigated whether HNF4 plays a general role in the expression of 7 major CYP genes in primary cultured human hepatocytes. To this end, we developed an adenoviral vector for efficient expression of HNF4 antisense RNA. Transduction of human hepatocytes with the recombinant adenovirus resulted in a time-dependent increase in the antisense transcript, followed by a concomitant decrease in apolipoprotein C III mRNA (a target gene of HNF4). Specificity was confirmed by showing that increasing levels of HNF4 antisense RNA resulted in the reduction of HNF4 protein, whereas retinoic X receptoralpha-(RXRalpha), the closest homologous member of the nuclear receptor super-family, was unaffected. Analysis of CYP gene expression in human hepatocytes transfected with HNF4 antisense RNA revealed singular behaviors: (1) CYP3A4, CYP3A5, and CYP2A6 showed an important, dose-dependent down-regulation on blockage of HNF4 translation; (2) a moderate inhibition of CYP2B6, CYP2C9, and CYP2D6 expression was observed (40%-45% reduction); (3) the levels of CYP2E1 were not affected even in the absence of this transcription factor. In conclusion, using an original strategy (efficient antisense RNA expression vector), our study shows that HNF4 is a general regulator supporting the expression of major drug-metabolizing CYPs in human hepatocytes.