Cytochrome P-450 function as mono-oxygenases and metabolize xenobiotics. CYP1A1, a cytochrome P-450 enzyme, bioactivates polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons to reactive metabolite(s) that bind to DNA and initiate carcinogenesis. Northern and immunoblot analyses revealed constitutive expression of Cyp1a1 and CYP1A1 in rat and human brain, respectively. CYP1A1 mRNA and protein were localized predominantly in neurons of cerebral cortex, Purkinje and granule cell layers of cerebellum and pyramidal neurons of CA1, CA2, and CA3 subfields of the hippocampus. RT-PCR analyses using RNA obtained from autopsy human brain samples demonstrated the presence of a splice variant having a deletion of 87 bp of exon 6. This splice variant was present in human brain, but not in the liver from the same individual, and was absent in rat brain and liver. Structural modeling indicated broadening of the substrate access channel in the brain variant. The study demonstrates the presence of a unique cytochrome P-450 enzyme in human brain that is generated by alternate splicing. The presence of distinct cytochrome P-450 enzymes in human brain that are different from well-characterized hepatic forms indicates that metabolism of xenobiotics including drugs could occur in brain by pathways different from those known to occur in liver.