Steroid hydroxylation specificities were determined for 11 forms of human cytochrome P450, representing four gene families and eight subfamilies, that were synthesized in human hepatoma Hep G2 cells by means of cDNA-directed expression using vaccinia virus. Microsomes isolated from the P450-expressing Hep G2 cells were isolated and then assayed for their regioselectivity of hydroxylation toward testosterone, androstenedione, and progesterone. Four of the eleven P450s exhibited high steroid hydroxylase activity (150-900 pmol hydroxysteroid/min/mg Hep G2 microsomal protein), one was moderately active (30-50 pmol/min/mg) and six were inactive. In contrast, 10 of the P450s effectively catalyzed O-deethylation of 7-ethoxycoumarin, a model drug substrate, while only one (P450 2A6) catalyzed significant coumarin 7-hydroxylation. Human P450 4B1, which is expressed in lung but not liver, catalyzed the 6 beta-hydroxylation of all three steroids at similar rates and with only minor formation of other hydroxylated products. Three members of human P450 family 3A, which are expressed in liver and other tissues, also catalyzed steroid 6 beta-hydroxylation as their major activity but, additionally, formed several minor products that include 2 beta-hydroxy and 15 beta-hydroxy derivatives in the case of testosterone. These patterns are similar to those exhibited by rat family 3A P450s. Although several rodent P450s belonging to subfamilies 2A, 2B, 2C, 2D are active steroid hydroxylases, four of five human P450s belonging to these subfamilies exhibited very low activity or were inactive, as were the human 1A and 2E P450s examined in the present study. These studies demonstrate that individual human cytochrome P450 enzymes can hydroxylate endogenous steroid hormones with a high degree of stereospecificity and regioselectivity, and that some, but not all of the human cytochromes exhibit metabolite profiles similar to their rodent counterparts.