Catalytic activities and substrate specificity of flavin-containing monooxygenase were examined in human tissues. During incubation with imipramine, human hepatic microsomes efficiently carried out cytochrome P450-dependent reactions but not the formation of N-oxide, while in kidney imipramine N-oxide was the only metabolite formed during in vitro incubation. The production of imipramine N-oxide was essentially due to flavin-containing monooxygenase as shown by thermal inactivation. In contrast, thiobenzamide and dimethylaniline were actively transformed by both human liver and kidney flavin-containing monooxygenase. Neither the modification of pH nor the solubilization of microsomal membranes increased imipramine N-oxidation in human liver. Kinetic analysis indicated a poor affinity (about 7 mM) of human liver microsomes for imipramine versus 0.3 mM in kidney. Immunological studies were undertaken to support enzymatic data. Antibodies raised against rat liver flavin-monooxygenase reacted strongly with human kidney microsomes but extremely weakly with liver microsomes. The relative amount of immunochemically determined protein correlated well with imipramine N-oxidation activity. A dose-dependent inhibition of imipramine N-oxidation by anti-flavin-monooxygenase antibodies was observed in human kidney, as well as in rat kidney and liver. Taken together, the results can be interpreted by the possible existence in human tissues of distinct flavin-containing monooxygenases exhibiting a partial overlapping substrate specificity. The protein involved in imipramine N-oxidation is missing from human liver but actively carries out the reaction in kidney, while another protein catalyzes the oxidation of thiobenzamide and dimethylaniline in both tissues.