1. Fluvoxamine and seven other selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SRRI) were tested for their ability to inhibit a number of human cytochrome P450 isoforms (CYPs). 2. None of the drugs showed potent inhibition of CYP2A6 (coumarin 7-hydroxylase) or CYP2E1 (chlorzoxazone 6-hydroxylase), while norfluoxetine was the only potent inhibitor of CYP3A having IC50 values of 11 microM and 19 microM for testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylase and cortisol 6 beta-hydroxylase, respectively. 3. Norfluoxetine, sertraline and fluvoxamine inhibited CYP1A1 (7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase) in microsomes from human placenta (IC50 values 29 microM, 35 microM and 80 microM, respectively). Fluvoxamine was a potent inhibitor of CYP1A2-mediated 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase activity (IC50 = 0.3 microM) in human liver. 4. In microsomes from three human livers fluvoxamine potently inhibited all pathways of theophylline biotransformation, the apparent inhibitor constant, Ki, was 0.07-0.13 microM, 0.05-0.10 microM and 0.16-0.29 microM for inhibition of 1-methylxanthine, 3-methylxanthine and 1,3-dimethyluric acid formation, respectively. Seven other SSRIs showed either weak or no inhibition of theophylline metabolism. 5. Ethanol inhibited the formation of 1,3-dimethyluric acid with K(i) value of 300 microM, a value which is consistent with inhibition of CYP2E1. Ethanol and fluvoxamine both inhibited 8-hydroxylation by about 45% and, in combination, the compounds decreased the formation of 1,3-dimethyluric acid by 90%, indicating that CYP1A2 and CYP2E1 are equally important isoforms for the 8-hydroxylation of theophylline. 6. It is concluded that pharmacokinetic interaction between fluvoxamine and theophylline is due to potent inhibition of CYP1A2.