1. The enzyme kinetics of dextromethorphan O-demethylation in liver microsomes from three extensive metabolisers (EM) with respect to CYP2D6 indicated high (Km1 2.2-9.4 microM) and low (Km2 55.5-307.3 microM) affinity sites whereas microsomes from two poor metabolisers (PM) indicated a single site (Km 560 and 157 microM). Similar differences were shown for 3-methoxymorphinan O-demethylation to 3-hydroxymorphinan (Km 6.9-9.6 microM in EM subjects; Km 307 and 213 microM in PM subjects). 2. Dextromethorphan O-demethylation was inhibited competitively by quinidine (Ki 0.1 microM), rac-perhexiline (Ki 0.4 microM), dextropropoxyphene (Ki 6 microM), rac-methadone (Ki 8 microM), and 3-methoxymorphinan (Ki 15 microM). These compounds were also potent inhibitors of 3-methoxymorphinan O-demethylation with IC50 values ranging from 0.02-12 microM. Anti-LKM1 serum inhibited both dextromethorphan and 3-methoxymorphinan O-demethylations in a titre-dependent manner. 3. The Michaelis-Menten constant for dextromethorphan N-demethylation to 3-methoxymorphinan (Km 632-977 microM) and dextrorphan N-demethylation to 3-hydroxymorphinan (Km 1571-4286 microM) did not differ between EM and PM microsomes. These N-demethylation reactions were not inhibited by quinidine and rac-methadone or LKM1 antibodies. 4. Dextromethorphan and 3-methoxymorphinan are metabolised by the same P450 isoform, CYP2D6, whereas the N-demethylation reactions are not carried out by CYP2D6.