CYP3A isoforms are responsible for the biotransformation of a wide variety of exogenous chemicals and endogenous steroids in human tissues. Two members of the CYP3A subfamily display developmentally regulated expression in the liver; CYP3A7 is expressed in the fetal liver, whereas CYP3A4 is the major cyrochrome P-450 isoform present in the adult liver. To gain insight into the descriptive ontogenesis of CYP3A isoforms during the neonatal period, we have developed several approaches to explore a neonatal liver bank. Although CYP3A4 and CYP3A7 are structurally closely related, they differ in their capacity to carry out monooxygenase reactions. We have cloned CYP3A4 and CYP3A7 and established stable transfectants in Ad293 cells to investigate their substrate specificities. The 16alpha hydroxylation of dehydroepiandrosterone is catalyzed by both proteins, but CYP3A7 has a higher affinity and maximal velocity than CYP3A4. Conversely, the conversion of testosterone into its 6beta derivative is essentially supported by CYP3A4. We used these two probes to determine the ontogenic evolution at the protein level; CYP3A7 was very active in the fetal liver and its activity was maximal during the first week following birth before to progressively decline and reached a very low level in adult livers. Conversely, the activity of CYP3A4 was extremely weak in the fetus and began to raise after birth to reach 30-40% of the adult activity after one month. CYP3A4 RNA accumulation displays a similar pattern of evolution; when probed with an oligonucleotide, its concentration increased rapidly after birth to reach a plateau as soon as the first week of age. These data supports the assumption that CYP3A4 expression is transcriptionally activated during the first week after birth and is accompanied by a simultaneous decrease of CYP3A7 expression, in such a way that the overall CYP3A protein content and the level of pentoxyresorufin dealkylase catalyzed by the two proteins remain nearly constant.