We have previously demonstrated expression of cytochrome P 450 3A (CYP3A) protein in pulmonary carcinomas and surrounding normal tissue, using immunohistochemistry. These results suggested that different CYP3A enzymes may be expressed in normal and tumour tissue. Therefore, the aim of the present study was to identify specific CYP3A enzymes expressed in normal human lung and lung tumours. Both normal lung tissue and tumour tissue from eight patients was analyzed for CYP3A4, CYP3A5 and CYP3A7 mRNA using a specific RT-PCR (reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction) method. Identical samples were subjected to immunohistochemical analysis of CYP3A protein. CYP3A5 was the major enzyme of the CYP3A subfamily present at the mRNA level in both normal human lung and lung tumours. CYP3A5 mRNA was detected in normal lung tissue in all eight cases and in tumour tissue in four cases. CYP3A7 mRNA was detected in five cases in normal tissue and in one tumour. Notably, no CYP3A4 mRNA was found in any of the samples. Immunohistochemical staining for CYP3A protein was found in normal lung tissue in each case. Interestingly, all pulmonary carcinomas showed immunostaining for CYP3A, while mRNA for CYP3A enzymes was found in only four cases. In summary, our study indicates a specific expression pattern of the members of the CYP3A subfamily in normal human lung and lung tumours. These findings have potential clinical significance, since it has been recently shown that CYP3A5 catalyzes the activation of the anticancer pro-drugs cyclophosphamide and ifosfamide. Thus, local activation of these agents may take place in pulmonary carcinomas and surrounding normal tissues.