7-Ethoxycoumarin O-deethylation has been used widely as a marker activity for assessing substrate specificities of cytochromes P450 (P450) in liver microsomes of mammals, and extensive studies have shown that in rats and mice the major catalysts are P450 1A1, 1A2, and 2B enzymes. In contrast to findings in experimental animal models, P450 2E1 has been reported to be a principal enzyme involved in 7-ethoxy-coumarin O-deethylation in human livers. In this study, we further examined the roles of individual forms of human P450 involved in 7-ethoxycoumarin O-deethylation using microsomes from different human liver samples and from human lymphoblastoid cells expressing human P450 enzymes and purified P450 enzymes isolated from the membrane of Escherichia coli expressing modified P450 proteins. Kinetic analysis showed that there were at least two different enzymes involved in 7-ethoxycoumarin O-deethylation in different human samples. Samples that contained high amounts of P450 2E1 in liver microsomes showed biphasic curves for O-deethylation with relatively high turnover numbers, whereas P450 1A2-rich samples tended to have low Km values with low Vmax values. Anti-human P450 2E1 antibodies inhibited markedly (P < 0.05) the 7-ethoxycoumarin O-deethylation activities catalyzed by human liver microsomes particularly when examined at a high substrate concentration (200 microM). However, we also found that anti-P450 1A2 antibodies suppressed O-deethylation activities only at a low substrate concentration (10 microM). Recombinant human P450 1A2 was found to have a low Km value for 7-ethoxycoumarin O-deethylation, whereas P450 2E1 showed a high Km value. Of the P450 enzymes examined, P450 1A1 gave the highest O-deethylation activities with a low Km value, although this enzyme is reported to be expressed extrahepatically in humans. Other human P450 enzymes, including P450 2A6, 2C10, 2D6, 3A4, and 3A5, did not show significant O-deethylation activities except that P450 2B6, a minor P450 component in human livers, was found to have a Vmax value similar to that of P450 1A2 and a Km value similar to that of P450 2E1. These results suggest that P450 1A2 is a low Km enzyme for 7-ethoxycoumarin O-deethylation in human liver microsome, although it has a low Vmax value than P450 2E1.