The in vitro metabolism of [(14)C]-gefitinib (1-3 microM) was investigated using human liver microsomes and a range of expressed human cytochrome P450 enzymes, with particular focus on the formation of O-desmethyl-gefitinib (M523595), the major metabolite observed in human plasma. High-performance liquid chromatography with ultraviolet light, radiochemical and mass spectral analysis, together with the availability of authentic standards, enabled quantification and structural identification of metabolites. On incubation with pooled human liver microsomes, [(14)C]-gefitinib underwent rapid and extensive metabolism to a number of metabolites, although M523595 was only a minor microsomal product. Formation of most metabolites was markedly decreased by ketoconazole, but M523595 production was inhibited only by quinidine. Gefitinib was metabolized extensively by expressed CYP3A4, producing a similar range of metabolites to liver microsomes, but M523595 was not formed. CYP1A2, 2C9 and 2C19 produced no measurable metabolism of gefitinib, while CYP3A5 produced a range of metabolites similar to CYP3A4, but to a much lower degree. In contrast, CYP2D6 catalysed rapid and extensive metabolism of gefitinib to M523595. While formation of M523595 was CYP2D6 mediated, the overall metabolism of gefitinib was dependent primarily on CYP3A4, and this was not obviously diminished in liver microsomes from CYP2D6 poor metabolizers.