1. Furafylline (1,8-dimethyl-3-(2'-furfuryl)methylxanthine) is a methylxanthine derivative that was introduced as a long-acting replacement for theophylline in the treatment of asthma. Administration of furafylline was associated with an elevation in plasma levels of caffeine, due to inhibition of caffeine oxidation, a reaction catalysed by one or more hydrocarbon-inducible isoenzymes of P450. We have now investigated the selectivity of inhibition of human monooxygenase activities by furafylline. 2. Furafylline was a potent, non-competitive inhibitor of high affinity phenacetin O-deethylase activity of microsomal fractions of human liver, a reaction catalysed by P450IA2, with an IC50 value of 0.07 microM. 3. Furafylline had either very little or no effect on human monooxygenase activities catalysed by other isoenzymes of P450, including P450IID1, P450IIC, P450IIA. Of particular interest, furafylline did not inhibit P450IA1, assessed from aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase activity of placental samples from women who smoked cigarettes. 4. It is concluded that furafylline is a highly selective inhibitor of P450IA2 in man. 5. Furafylline was a potent inhibitor of the N3-demethylation of caffeine and of a component of the N1- and N7-demethylation. This confirms earlier suggestions that caffeine is a selective substrate of a hydrocarbon-inducible isoenzyme of P450 in man, and identifies this as P450IA2. Thus, caffeine N3-demethylation should provide a good measure of the activity of P450IA in vivo in man. 6. Although furafylline selectively inhibited P450IA2, relative to P450IA1, in the rat, this was at 1000-times the concentration required to inhibit the human isoenzyme, suggesting a major difference in the active site geometry between the human and the rat orthologues of P50IA2.