Human cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2A6 and 2A13 play an important role in catalyzing the metabolism of many environmental chemicals including coumarin, nicotine, and several tobacco-specific carcinogens. Both CYP2A6 and CYP2A13 proteins are composed of 494 amino acid residues. Although CYP2A13 shares a 93.5% identity with CYP2A6 in the amino acid sequence, it is only about one-tenth as active as CYP2A6 in catalyzing coumarin 7-hydroxylation. To identify the key amino acid residues that account for such a remarkable difference, we generated a series of CYP2A6 and CYP2A13 mutants by site-directed mutagenesis/heterologous expression and compared their coumarin 7-hydroxylation activities. In CYP2A6, the amino acid residues at position 117 and 372 are valine (Val) and arginine (Arg), respectively; whereas in CYP2A13, they are alanine (Ala) and histidine (His). Kinetic analysis revealed that the catalytic efficiency (Vmax/Km) of the CYP2A6 Val(117)--> Ala and Arg(372)--> His mutants was drastically reduced (0.41 and 0.64 versus 3.23 for the wild-type CYP2A6 protein). In contrast, the catalytic efficiency of the CYP2A13 Ala(117) --> Val and His(372) --> Arg mutants was greatly increased (2.65 and 2.60 versus 0.31 for wild-type CYP2A13 protein). These results clearly demonstrate that the Val at position 117 and Arg at position 372 are critical amino acid residues for coumarin 7-hydroxylation. Based on the crystal structure of CYP2C5, we have generated the homology models of CYP2A6 and CYP2A13 and docked the substrate coumarin to the active site. Together with the kinetic characterization, our structural modeling provides explanations for the amino acid substitution results and the insights of detailed enzyme-substrate interactions.