In our laboratory, primary human hepatocytes are being investigated as an in vitro experimental system for the evaluation of pharmacokinetic drug-drug interactions. Our study here represents the first reported study that directly compares the cytochrome P450 isozyme 3A (CYP3A) induction potential of three antimicrobials derived from rifamycin B, namely, rifampin, rifapentine and rifabutin. Two endpoints of CYP3A activity, testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylation and midazolam 1-hydroxylation have been used. Results obtained with hepatocytes from four different human donors show consistently that rifampin and rifapentine are potent inducers of CYP3A, while a significantly lower induction potential is observed for rifabutin. The relative induction potency of the three antimicrobials (rifampin > rifapentine >> rifabutin) is consistent with the available human in vivo data. For CYP1A measured as ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase activity, CYP2C8/9 measured as tolbutamide 4-hydroxylation activity, CYP2D6 measured as dextromethorphan O-demethylation, and AZT glucuronidation, there is either no effect or, where induction is found to be statistically significant in these other endpoints, the maximum induction values are consistently < 100% of the control. Our results suggest that CYP3A is the major CYP induced by these rifamycin B derivatives. These studies illustrate the application of human hepatocytes in the evaluation of the structure-activity relationships in CYP induction for this class of chemicals and as an in vitro screen for drug-drug interaction potential via CYP induction.