Due to their enormous substrate spectrum CYP3A4, -3A5 and -3A7 constitute the most important drug-metabolising enzyme subfamily in humans. CYP3As are expressed predominantly, but not exclusively, in the liver and intestine, where they participate in the metabolism of 45 - 60% of currently used drugs and many other compounds such as steroids and carcinogens. CYP3A expression and activity vary interindividually due to a combination of genetic and nongenetic factors such as hormone and health status, and the impact of environmental stimuli. Over the past several years, genetic determinants have been identified for much of the variable expression of CYP3A5 and -3A7, but not for CYP3A4. Using these markers, an effect of CYP3A5 expression status has been demonstrated beyond doubt for therapies with the immunosuppressive drug tacrolimus. Further associations are likely to emerge for drugs metabolised predominantly by CYP3A5 or -3A7, especially for individuals or tissues with concomitant low expression of CYP3A4. However, as exemplified by the controversial association between CYP3A4*1B and prostate cancer, the detection of clinical effects of CYP3A gene variants will be difficult. The most important underlying problems are the continuing absence of activity markers specific for CYP3A4 and the strong contribution of nongenetic factors to CYP3A variability.