The profile of nicotine metabolites produced by freshly isolated hepatocytes from rats, hamsters, guinea pigs, mice and humans was investigated after a 30-min exposure to nicotine ([2-14C]pyrrolidine). Large species differences occurred in the extent of nicotine metabolism; these ranged from 95% metabolism in guinea pig hepatocytes to only 30% metabolism in human and rat hepatocytes. The spectrum of metabolites formed also varied widely in different species. In hepatocytes from obese human subjects, nicotine was metabolized most extensively in smokers, least in nonsmokers, and to an intermediate degree in exsmokers, suggesting that cigarette smoking enhances the rate of nicotine metabolism. Pretreatment of all nonhuman species studied with phenobarbital and beta-naphthoflavone and with Aroclor in rats produced distinctive inductive patterns. Phenobarbital pretreatment of nonsmokers for 2 days prior to liver biopsy doubled the extent of nicotine conversion to cotinine by their hepatocytes. Rat and hamster hepatocytes exhibited sex and stereoselectivity differences in nicotine metabolism. Collectively, these studies indicate that hepatocytes offer some advantages over in vivo systems in investigating certain aspects of nicotine metabolism.