The human cytochromes P450 (CYPs) mediating amitriptyline N-demethylation have been identified using a combination of enzyme kinetic and chemical inhibition studies. Amitriptyline was N-demethylated to nortriptyline by microsomes from cDNA transfected human lymphoblastoid cells expressing human CYPs 1A2, 2C9, 2C19, 2D6, and 3A4. CYP 2E1 showed no detectable activity. While CYP 2C19 and CYP 2D6 showed high affinity, CYP 3A4 showed low affinity; CYP 2C9 and 1A2 showed intermediate affinities. Based on these kinetic parameters and estimated relative abundance of the different CYPs in human liver, CYP 2C19 was identified as the major amitriptyline N-demethylase at low (therapeutically relevant) amitriptyline concentrations, whereas CYP 3A4 may be more important at higher amitriptyline concentrations. Chemical inhibition studies with ketoconazole and omeprazole indicate that CYP 3A4 is the major amitriptyline N-demethylase at 100 mumol/L amitriptyline, while CYP 2C19 is equally important at a substrate concentration of 5 mumol/L. The CYP 1A2 inhibitor alpha-naphthoflavone and the CYP 2C9 inhibitor sulfaphenazole produced much less inhibition of amitriptyline N-demethylation at both substrate concentrations. Quinidine produced no detectable inhibition. The kinetics of amitriptyline N-demethylation by human liver microsomes were consistent with a two enzyme model, with the high affinity component exhibiting Michaelis Menten kinetics and the low affinity component exhibiting Hill enzyme kinetics. No difference was apparent in the kinetics of amitriptyline N-demethylation in two liver samples with low levels of CYP 2C19 activity compared with two other samples with relatively normal 2C19 activity. This may reflect the importance of higher substrate concentration values in estimation of kinetic parameters in vitro.