A recent association study suggested that the His113 variant of microsomal epoxide hydrolase (mEPHX) may confer a risk for development of emphysema, presumably by increasing susceptibility to smoking injury. Before considering a possible role of this enzyme in pulmonary disease, we attempted to characterize the genetic polymorphism further. The Tyr/His113 polymorphism within exon 3 of mEPHX was initially examined in 62 healthy individuals by conventional methods involving polymerase chain reaction (PCR)-based determination of a restriction fragment length polymorphism (RFLP). Genomic nucleotide sequences, including the polymorphic site and the downstream primer sequence, were further analyzed in 95 unrelated, healthy Japanese volunteers by single-stranded conformation polymorphism (SSCP) analysis and direct sequencing. Genotyping by the first method (PCR-RFLP) revealed that the allelic distribution in our test population apparently deviated from Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium. Sequence analysis showed that a synonymous nucleotide substitution, AAG to AAA (Lys119), was located just within the published primer site. The AAA at codon 119 was present only in alleles with Tyr113, and its frequency reached 0.31 in our panel of 190 Japanese alleles. This substitution potentially hampered PCR amplification because of the nucleotide mismatch, with the result that the frequency of the Tyr113 variation was underestimated. The frequency of His113, a possible emphysema susceptibility allele of the mEPHX gene, was thus overestimated when human DNA samples were genotyped in the conventional way. Depending on the population(s) tested, this anomaly could represent a pitfall for PCR-based association studies.