1. Interethnic differences in cytochrome P4502A6 (CYP2A6) levels and coumarin 7-hydroxylation activities were determined in liver microsomes of 30 Japanese and 30 Caucasians. 2. Although CYP2A6 levels and coumarin 7-hydroxylation activities varied very significantly in the 60 human samples examined, both CYP2A6 levels and coumarin 7hydroxylation activities were found to be higher in Caucasian than Japanese population. 3. Interestingly, eight of the 30 Japanese examined showed very low or undetectable levels of coumarin 7-hydroxylation activities as well as of CYP2A6 in liver microsomes. All of the Caucasians, however, had significant CYP2A6 levels and variable 7-hydroxylation activities. 4. Kinetic analvsis of coumarin 7-hydroxylation activities in liver microsomes of various human samples suggested that although there were 260-fold differences in Vmax's in 10 human samples examined, the Km's were very similar (2.1 + or - 107 mu M); a value consistent with that obtained (1.2 mu M) with purified CYP2A6 in reconstituted system. 5. The results suggest that CYP2A6 is actually involved in the 7-hydroxylation of coumarin in human liver microsomes, and that interethnic differences in coumarin 7-hydroxylation activities in Japanese and Caucasian population may be ascribed to the differences in expression of CYP2A6 protein.