The metabolism of the immunosuppressant FK-506 was shown to be catalyzed primarily by cytochrome P450 isozymes of the P450 3A subfamily. Antibodies against rat P450 3A inhibited FK-506 metabolism by 82% in rat liver microsomes and by 35-56% in liver microsomes from humans, dexamethasone-induced rats, and erythromycin-induced rabbits. Poor species cross-reactivity of the antibodies, metabolic switching, and/or some metabolism by P450 isozymes other than P450 3A may be responsible for the incomplete inhibition observed. Besides anti-rat P450 3A, antibodies against rat P450 1A also appeared to have some inhibitory effect implicating these particular cytochrome P450 isozymes as having a minor role in FK-506 metabolism. The formation of 13-desmethyl FK-506, identified here as a major metabolite of FK-506 in all types of microsomes examined, was inhibited completely by anti-P450 3A in liver microsomes from dexamethasone-induced rats and erythromycin-induced rabbits but only partially in human and control rat liver microsomes.