Significant changes in drug-metabolizing enzyme (DME) expression occur during ontogeny. Such changes can have a profound effect on therapeutic efficacy in the fetus and child, as well as the risk for adverse drug reactions. To gain a better understanding of DME ontogeny, enzyme contents for six key cytochromes P450 were measured in 240 human liver samples representing ages from 8 weeks gestation to 18 years. Where possible, both quantitative western blotting and activity assays with probe substrates were performed. Although oversimplified, the DME can be grouped into one of three categories. As typified by CYP3A7, some enzymes are expressed at their highest level during the first trimester and either remain at high concentrations or decrease during gestation and are silenced or expressed at low levels within 1-2 years after birth. These data cause one to query whether these enzymes have an important endogenous function. Representatives of a second group, CYP3A5 and CYP2C19, are expressed at relatively constant levels throughout gestation. Postnatal increases in CYP2C19 are observed within the first year, but not for CYP3A5. CYP2C9, 2E1, and 3A4 are more typical of a third group of enzymes that are not expressed or are expressed at low levels in the fetus with the onset of expression generally in either the second or third trimester. Substantial increases in expression are observed within the first 1-2 years after birth; however, considerable interindividual variability is observed in the immediate postnatal (1-6 months) onset or increase in expression of these enzymes, often resulting in a window of hypervariability.