1. The aim of the present study was to identify human cytochrome p-450 isoforms (CYPs) involved in 5-sulphoxidation and N-demethylation of the simplest phenothiazine neuroleptic promazine in human liver. 2. The experiments were performed in the following in vitro models: (A). a study of promazine metabolism in liver microsomes-(a). correlations between the rate of promazine metabolism and the level and activity of CYPs; (b). the effect of specific inhibitors on the rate of promazine metabolism (inhibitors: CYP1A2-furafylline, CYP2D6-quinidine, CYP2A6+CYP2E1-diethyldithiocarbamic acid, CYP2C9-sulfaphenazole, CYP2C19-ticlopidine, CYP3A4-ketoconazole); (B). promazine biotransformation by cDNA-expressed human CYPs (Supersomes 1A1, 1A2, 2A6, 2B6, 2C9, 2C19, 2E1, 3A4); (C). promazine metabolism in a primary culture of human hepatocytes treated with specific inducers (rifampicin-CYP3A4, CYP2B6 and CYP2C inducer, 2,3,7,8-tetrachlordibenzeno-p-dioxin (TCDD)-CYP1A1/1A2 inducer). 3. In human liver microsomes, the formation of promazine 5-sulphoxide and N-desmethylpromazine was significantly correlated with the level of CYP1A2 and ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase and acetanilide 4-hydroxylase activities, as well as with the level of CYP3A4 and cyclosporin A oxidase activity. Moreover, the formation of N-desmethylpromazine was correlated well with S-mephenytoin 4'-hydroxylation. 4. Furafylline (a CYP1A2 inhibitor) and ketoconazole (a CYP3A4 inhibitor) significantly decreased the rate of promazine 5-sulphoxidation, while furafylline and ticlopidine (a CYP2C19 inhibitor) significantly decreased the rate of promazine N-demethylation in human liver microsomes. 5. The cDNA-expressed human CYPs generated different amounts of promazine metabolites, but the rates of CYP isoforms to catalyse promazine metabolism at therapeutic concentration (10 microM) was as follows: 1A1>2B6>1A2>2C9>3A4>2E1>2A6>2D6>2C19 for 5-sulphoxidation and 2C19>2B6>1A1>1A2>2D6>3A4>2C9>2E1>2A6 for N-demethylation. The highest intrinsic clearance (V(max)/K(m)) was found for CYP1A subfamily, CYP3A4 and CYP2B6 in the case of 5- sulphoxidation, and for CYP2C19, CYP1A subfamily and CYP2B6 in the case of N-demethylation. 6. In a primary culture of human hepatocytes, TCDD (a CYP1A subfamily inducer), as well as rifampicin (mainly a CYP3A4 inducer) induced the formation of promazine 5-sulphoxide and N-desmethylpromazine. 7. Regarding the relative expression of various CYPs in human liver, the obtained results indicate that CYP1A2 and CYP3A4 are the main isoforms responsible for 5-sulphoxidation, while CYP1A2 and CYP2C19 are the basic isoforms that catalyse N-demethylation of promazine in human liver. Of the other isoforms studied, CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 contribute to a lesser degree to promazine 5-sulphoxidation and N-demethylation, respectively. The role of CYP2A6, CYP2B6, CYP2D6 and CYP2E1 in the investigated metabolic pathways of promazine seems negligible.