Hepatic metabolism of ethanol by cytochrome P450 2E1 (CYP2E1) is believed to contribute to alcoholic liver damage. To further evaluate CYP2E1 in alcoholic liver disease, we created a transgenic mouse containing human CYP2E1 complementary DNA (cDNA) under the control of mouse albumin enhancer-promoter. Two experiments were performed. In the first experiment, transgenic and nontransgenic mice were fed normal chow. In the second experiment, transgenic and nontransgenic mice were pair fed a nutritionally complete liquid diet for 16 weeks. The liquid diet contained 30% of calories as ethanol (or dextrose) and 25% of calories as corn oil. Liver damage was assessed by measuring serum alanine aminotransferase (ALT) levels and examining liver histology. Transgenic animals reproduced and were phenotypically normal. Hepatic levels of CYP2E1 messenger RNA (mRNA), protein, and enzyme activity did not differ between chow-fed transgenic and nontransgenic mice. Livers from transgenic mice fed the alcohol diet contained significantly more CYP2E1 protein and enzyme activity than livers from nontransgenic mice fed the same diet. Transgenic mice receiving the alcohol diet had significantly higher serum ALT levels than nontransgenic mice. Histologic examination of the livers showed higher histologic scores in transgenic mice fed ethanol compared with nontransgenic mice fed ethanol. Ballooning hepatocytes were seen in livers from transgenic mice fed ethanol. Apoptosis, as determined by terminal deoxynucleotidyl transferase-mediated deoxyuridine triphosphate nick-end labeling (TUNEL) assay, did not differ between groups. In conclusion, we have produced a transgenic mouse that expresses human CYP2E1 in the liver. When fed a nutritionally complete alcohol diet, transgenic mice develop more liver damage than nontransgenic mice.