The relationships between catalytic activity of cytochrome P450 2A6 (CYP2A6), polymorphism of CYP2A6 gene, gender and levels of body iron stores were analysed in a sample group of 202 apparently healthy Thais, aged 19-47 years. Eleven individuals were found to have high activity of CYP2A6, judged by the relatively large amounts (11.2-14.6 mg) of 7-hydroyxcoumarin (7-OHC) excreted 3 h following administration of 15 mg of coumarin. Ten individuals, however, did not excrete any 7-OHC. Of these 10, four were found to have no CYP2A6 gene (whole gene deletion; CYP2A6*4 allele). The frequency of the CYP2A6 alleles; *1A, *1B and *4 in the whole sample group was 52, 40 and 8% while the frequency of the CYP2A6 gene types; *1A/*1A, *1A/*1B, *1B/*1B, *1A/*4, *1B/*4, *4/*4 was 29, 41, 16, 7, 5 and 2%. Subjects having CYP2A6*1A/*1B gene-type group were found to have higher rates of coumarin 7-hydroxylation compared with those of the CYP2A6*1B/*1B and CYP2A6*1A/*4 gene types. The inter-individual variability in CYP2A6 catalytic activity was therefore attributed in part to the CYP2A6 genetic polymorphism. Variation in CYP2A6 activity in this sample group was not associated with gender but, interestingly, it did show an inverse association with plasma ferritin; an indicator of body iron stores. Higher rates of coumarin 7-hydroxylation were found in individuals with low body iron stores (plasma ferritin < 20 microg/l) compared with subjects having normal body iron store status. Subjects (n = 16) with iron overload (plasma ferritin > 300 microg/l) also tended to have elevated rates of coumarin 7-hydroxylation. These results suggest an increased CYP2A6 expression in subjects who have excessive body iron stores. Further investigations into the underlying factors that may lead to increased expression of CYP2A6 in association with abnormal body iron stores are currently in progress in our laboratory.