The metabolism and cytochrome P-450-binding of phenoxazone and a homologous series of its n-alkyl ethers (1-8C) was studied in hepatic microsomes of control, phenobarbitone-pretreated (PB) and 3-methylcholanthrene-pretreated (3MC) C57/BL10 mice. Phenoxazone and its ethers were hydroxylated and O-dealkylated respectively to a common metabolite, resorufin. The three categories of microsomes differed greatly in activity for the metabolism and binding of the various substrate homologues. The most rapidly metabolised substrates for control microsomes were phenoxazone and its shortest-chain ethers, for PB microsomes phenoxazone and the pentyl ether, and for 3MC microsomes the ethyl and propyl ethers. The variations in activity occurred in Vmax rather than in the apparent Km-value. All the ethers gave Type I cytochrome P-450-binding spectra. The substrates giving the largest Type I spectra were the same for all microsomes--the ethyl, propyl and butyl ethers--but the magnitudes of the spectra differed in the order 3MC- greater than PB- greater than control microsomes. Phenoxazone and resorufin gave Modified Type II cytochrome P-450-binding spectra. PB-induction was most marked for the depentylation reaction (increased 101-fold), whereas 3MC-induction was most marked for depropylation and debutylation (88- and 96-fold). The intermicrosomal differences were interpreted as reflecting the different metabolic specificities of variant forms of cytochrome P-450. Substrate lipophilicity increased with increasing ether chain length and was not a major influence on specificity. The main substrate influence on specificity was steric, due to the presence and length of the ether side chain. The preeminent effect of ether chain length was considered to be on the rate of substrate transformation rather than on substrate interaction with cytochrome P-450.