The ability of normal subjects to hydroxylate mephenytoin (100 mg) or debrisoquine (10 mg) after oral dosing was investigated in 156 unrelated Caucasians living in middle Tennessee. Urinary recovery of 4-hydroxymephenytoin (4-OH-M) and the urinary S:R enantiomeric ratio of mephenytoin measured in an 8-hr urine sample were investigated as phenotypic traits for mephenytoin, and the urinary metabolic ratio of debrisoquine was used to determine the debrisoquine hydroxylase phenotype. Both urinary 4-OH-M and the S:R ratio of mephenytoin discriminated between extensive (EM) and poor (PM) metabolizers of mephenytoin. The frequencies of PMs for mephenytoin and debrisoquine hydroxylation activity were 2.6% and 7.0%. These two defects in oxidative metabolism were not observed in the same subjects, which suggests that 4-hydroxylation of mephenytoin is a new polymorphism independent of that for debrisoquine.