The purpose of this study is to characterize the interactions among P450 1A2, P450 2B4, and P450 reductase in mixed reconstituted systems. Previously, our laboratory demonstrated that in the presence of certain substrates, 1A2 can influence the catalytic characteristics of 2B4 [Cawley et al. (1995) Biochemistry 34, 1244-1247]. The goal of the current study is to distinguish between two models to explain these interactions: one model where substrate increases the affinity of one P450 enzyme for the reductase, and another model where substrate increases the affinity of one P450 for the reductase through the formation of a 1A2-2B4 complex. According to this model, the 1A2 moiety of 1A2-2B4 forms a high-affinity complex with reductase. Reductase, 1A2, and 2B4 were reconstituted with dilauroylphosphatidylcholine, and the effect of reductase concentration on 7-pentoxyresorufin-O-dealkylation was examined with 2B4-reductase and 1A2-reductase binary systems, and in ternary systems containing different 2B4:1A2 ratios. At subsaturating [reductase], there was a dramatic inhibition of the 2B4-dependent activity in the ternary system as compared with the binary systems. These results are consistent with the formation of a ternary (reductase-1A2-2B4) complex where the reductase is bound specifically to 1A2. At higher reductase concentrations where the reductase-binding sites on 1A2 become saturated, the results are consistent with the formation of a quaternary complex in which reductase binds to both P450 enzymes (reductase-1A2-2B4-reductase). Analogous experiments using the 1A2-preferred substrate 7-ethoxyresorufin showed a stimulation of 7-ethoxyresorufin-O-deethylation in the mixed reconstituted system, demonstrating that the high-affinity 2B4-1A2-reductase complex was functionally active and not merely an inhibitory complex.