To investigate whether the free-drug theory is accurate in that only unbound drug is available for drug metabolism or enzyme inhibition. The effect of addition of rat liver cytosol to an in vitro system using human liver microsomes was examined by measuring the catalytic activities of CYP2C9 (tolbutamide and diclofenac) and CYP3A4 (terfenadine). And, the results were compared with those obtained when human serum albumin (HSA) was added to microsomes as far as unbound drug concentrations were concerned. After addition of rat liver cytosol, the unbound Km value (Km,u) for terfenadine metabolism by CYP3A4, and the unbound Ki value of miconazole (Ki,u) for CYP2C9 were smaller than for the controls. Addition of HSA resulted in smaller Km,u values for diclofenac and terfenadine metabolism by CYP2C9 and CYP3A4, respectively, and the Ki,u value for ketoconazole inhibition of CYP3A4 was also reduced. These results suggest protein-facilitated effects on drug metabolism and enzyme inhibition for both CYP2C9 and CYP3A4. However, no protein-facilitated drug metabolism was observed for tolbutamide in the presence of HSA or cytosol, or for diclofenac in the presence of cytosol. Protein-facilitated enzyme inhibition did not occur with miconazole in the presence of HSA or with ketoconazole in the presence of rat liver cytosol. Protein-facilitated metabolism and enzyme inhibition were observed for CYP2C9 and CYP3A4 in five cases but there was no obvious pattern of enzyme, substrate, or binding protein specificity. Further investigations are necessary to clarify the relevance of these results to in vivo observations.