Cytochrome P450 1B1 (CYP1B1) is an extrahepatic enzyme of potential importance for the metabolism of estrogen and for metabolic activation of environmental carcinogens. We investigated an Ethiopian population for functional polymorphisms in the CYP1B1 gene using genomic DNA sequencing and detected three novel single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs). One of these (4360C-->G in exon 3) is present at a frequency of 7% and causes an Ala443Gly amino acid substitution. In addition, the four described previously missense mutations Arg48Gly, Ala119Ser, Leu432Val, and Asn453Ser were found with frequencies of 51, 50, 53, and 2%, respectively, yielding a total of 32 possible CYP1B1 haplotypes. Allele-specific PCR methods for haplotype analysis were developed and seven different CYP1B1 alleles were found: CYP1B1*1, *2, *3, *4, *5, *6, and *7 with frequencies of 8, 37, 39, 2, 0.7, 6, and 7%, respectively. The functional properties of different forms of CYP1B1, as well as of the Leu432Val + Asn453Ser and Leu432Val + Ala443Gly variants, were evaluated after heterologous expression of the corresponding cDNAs in Saccaromyces cerevisiae. The results revealed that CYP1B1.6 and CYP1B1.7, having the amino acid substitutions Arg48Gly, Ala119Ser, and Leu432Val in common, exhibited altered kinetics with significantly increased apparent K(m) and lowered V(max) values for both the 2- and 4-hydroxylation of 17 beta-estradiol, whereas the other constructs were indistinguishable from the CYP1B1.1 enzyme. The results emphasize the necessity of a complete haplotype analysis of enzyme variants for evaluation of functional consequences in vivo and for analyses of genetic polymorphisms in relation to, for example, cancer incidence.