Furocoumarins are natural plant constituents present in medicinal plants and in a variety of foods such as grapefruit juice. They are phototoxic and act as potent inhibitors of drug metabolism. We have investigated the interaction of four furocoumarins angelicin, bergamottin, isopimpinellin, and 8-methoxypsoralen with the expression and activity of aryl hydrocarbon receptor (AhR)-regulated CYP1A1 in rat hepatocytes in primary culture, both in the presence and absence of light. In intact hepatocytes pretreated with 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin and in microsomes isolated thereof, all furocoumarins tested acted as potent inhibitors of CYP1A1 activity bergamottin being the most potent inhibitor in microsomes with an IC(50) of 10 nM in the presence and 60 nM in the absence of light. 8-Methoxypsoralen and angelicin led to a significant induction of CYP1A1 mRNA in hepatocytes, while all furocoumarins except bergamottin increased xenobiotic-responsive element-driven reporter gene expression in transfected H4IIE rat hepatoma cells when light was excluded. Furthermore, all furocoumarins tested induced the expression of endogenous, immunoreactive CYP1A1 protein, primarily in the dark. In conclusion, our results demonstrate that individual furocoumarins present in food and medicinal plants can interfere with AhR-regulated CYP1A1 expression and activity in at least three major ways, i.e., (i) act as highly potent inhibitors of the catalytic activity of CYP1A1 both in the presence and absence of light, (ii) induce CYP1A1 gene expression in the absence of light via activation of the AhR, and (iii) induce CYP1A1 gene expression without activation of the AhR.