1,4-Benzodiazepine anxiolytics such as diazepam and halazepam are converted in vivo to oxazepam, an active metabolite with a hydroxyl group at the asymmetric C3 position. D-glucuronic acid couples with the C3 hydroxyl group of oxazepam to form pharmacologically inactive diastereomeric glucuronide conjugates. Conjugation with glucuronic acid is catalysed by the microsomal UDP-glucuronosyltransferase (UGT) enzyme system, which includes an undetermined number of isozymes. Although 1,4-benzodiazepines are ultimately cleared as oxazepam glucuronide, little is known about the particular UGT isozyme(s) responsible for the conjugation at the C3 position of these molecules. Microsomal preparations from three human livers were used to study the glucuronidation of (R,S)oxazepam in vitro. The predominant formation of the S- over the R-glucuronide was reflected by the kinetic parameters: For (S)oxazepam glucuronide, the constants were Km = 0.18 +/- 0.02 mM and Vmax = 202.6 +/- 25.0 nmol min-1 per mg protein; for (R)oxazepam glucuronide, they were Km = 0.22 +/- 0.02 mM, Vmax = 55.4 +/- 9.5 nmol min-1 per mg protein. Inhibition studies suggest that the two diastereomeric glucuronidations are catalysed by different UGT isozymes. That is, there was competitive inhibition of (S)oxazepam glucuronidation by non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), including ketoprofen while (R)oxazepam glucuronidation was not equally inhibited by these compounds. The order of potency of inhibitors of (S)oxazepam glucuronidation in this study was the same as the rank order of substrates conjugated by UGT2B7; hyodeoxycholic acid, estriol, (S)naproxen, ketoprofen, ibuprofen, fenoprofen, clofibric acid, and morphine (in descending order). The inhibition profile of (S)oxazepam glucuronidation suggests that UGT2B7 is the catalysing enzyme.