The aims of the present study were (1) to determine the cytotoxicity of colchiceine (EIN) in comparison with that of colchicine (COL); (2) to evaluate the effect of EIN on cytochrome P450 (CYP) expression and activity. Primary human hepatocytes were the model of choice for cytotoxicity and CYP expression experiments. LDH leakage and albumin secretion served as cytotoxicity parameters. EIN was less toxic than COL based on both parameters within the concentration range 1-100 microM. 10 microM concentration of EIN did not induce the expression of CYP1A2, CYP2A6, CYP2C9, CYP2C19, CYP2E1 and CYP3A4 isoforms, which were evaluated at the levels of mRNAs, proteins and specific activities in culture. EIN in concentrations up to 200 microM had no effect on marker activities of CYP1A2, 2C9, 2E1 and 3A4 in human liver microsomes. It was concluded that EIN in concentrations up to 10 microM is not cytotoxic in primary human hepatocytes as revealed by albumin secretion and LDH leakage. Possible drug-drug interactions of EIN due to effects on cytochromes P4501A2, 2C9, 2E1 and 3A4 isoforms are unlikely because inhibition/induction studies show any lack of such effects. As EIN was shown to have better antifibrotic properties than COL (European Journal of Clinical Investigation 1997, 2, 77), it can be used as a COL substitute with anticipated fewer side-effects.