Previous kinetic studies have identified a high-affinity (S)-warfarin 7-hydroxylase present in human liver microsomes which appears to be responsible for the termination of warfarin's biological activity. Inhibition of the formation of (S)-7-hydroxywarfarin, the inactive, major metabolite of racemic warfarin in humans, is known to be the cause of several of the drug interactions experienced clinically upon coadministration of warfarin with other therapeutic agents. In order to identify the specific form(s) of human liver cytochrome P-450 involved in this particular toxicity, we have determined the metabolic profiles of 11 human cytochrome P-450 forms expressed in HepG2 cells toward both (R)- and (S)-warfarin. Of the 11 forms examined only 2C9 displayed the regioselectivity and stereoselectivity appropriate for the high-affinity human liver microsomal (S)-7-hydroxylase. We further compared Michaelis-Menten and sulfaphenazole inhibition constants for (S)-warfarin 7-hydroxylation catalyzed by cDNA-expressed 2C9 and by human liver microsomes. Similar kinetic constants were obtained for each enzyme source. It is concluded that 2C9 is likely to be a principal form of human liver P-450 which modulates the in vivo anticoagulant activity of the drug. It is further concluded that those drug interactions with warfarin that arise as a result of decreased clearance of the biologically more potent S-enantiomer may have as their common basis the inhibition of P-450 2C9.