The human cytochrome P450 (P450) 2C gene family is complex and heterologous expression methods are needed to facilitate the isolation of individual P450 proteins and the elucidation of their catalytic specificities. We prepared a series of constructs of P450 2C10 in the plasmid vector pCW, with modification of the 5' end of the coding sequence of the cDNA. Some were not expressed at all in Escherichia coli; two were expressed at levels of 5-20 nmol membrane-bound P450 (liter culture)-1--one (2C1028) with original codons 2-7 altered by substitution of the 5'-terminal sequence described by Barnes et al. (Barnes, H. J., Arlotto, M. P., and Waterman, M. R., Proc., Natl. Acad. Sci. USA 88, 5597-5601, 1991) and one (2C1029) with original codon 2 modified, codons 3-20 deleted, and alteration of the immediate downstream codons. In both cases the P450 2C10 proteins were found essentially only in the bacterial membranes. These proteins could be purified to a high degree by solubilization and a single DEAE chromatography step. Typical P450 Fe2+.CO absorption spectra were observed in the bacterial membranes and the purified preparations. The P450 2C1029 protein was found to have its N-terminal Met removed and the expected residues 2 (Ala)-24 were identified by amino acid sequence analysis. However, the other P450 (2C1028) was apparently blocked at the N-terminus. Three native P450 2C9/10 preparations isolated from human liver showed the expected sequences (beginning with Met) for at least the first 17 residues. The blocked N-terminus in the P450 2C1028 protein may be the result of the MALLLAVF sequence, which was also used in the expression of P450 3A4 and resulted in a blocked protein. Catalytic activities of P450 2C1028 and P450 2C1029 for tolbutamide hydroxylation were similar to those measured with purified liver P450 C29/10 in the presence of cytochrome b5, although the effect of cytochrome b5 did not always show the same pattern as with the isolated liver enzyme. The recombinant P450 2C10 enzymes did not catalyze (S)-mephenytoin 4'-hydroxylation.