1. The potential of propofol to inhibit the activity of major human cytochrome P450 enzymes has been examined in vitro using human liver microsomes. Propofol produced inhibition of CYP1A2 (phenacetin O-deethylation), CYP2C9 (tolbutamide 4'-hydroxylation), CYP2D6 (dextromethorphan O-demethylation) and CYP3A4 (testosterone 6beta-hydroxylation) activities with IC50 = 40, 49, 213 and 32 microM respectively. Ki for propofol against all of these enzymes with the exception of CYP2D6, where propofol showed little inhibitory activity, was 30, 30 and 19 microM respectively for CYPs 1A2, 2C9 and 3A4. 2. Furafylline, sulphaphenazole, quinidine and ketoconazole, known selective inhibitors of CYPs 1A2, 2C9, 2D6 and 3A4 respectively, were much more potent than propofol having IC50 = 0.8, 0.5, 0.2 and 0.1 microM; furafylline and sulphaphenazole yielded Ki = 0.6 and 0.7 microM respectively. 3. The therapeutic blood concentration of propofol (20 microM; 3-4 microg/ml) together with the in vitro Ki estimates for each of the major human P450 enzymes have been used to estimate the extent of cytochrome P450 inhibition, which may be produced in vivo by propofol. This in vitro-in vivo extrapolation indicates that the degree of inhibition of CYP1A2, 2C9 and 3A4 activity which could theoretically be produced in vivo by propofol is relatively low (40-51%); this is considered unlikely to have any pronounced clinical significance. 4. Although propofol has now been used in > 190 million people since its launch in 1986, there are only single reports of possible drug interactions between propofol and either alfentanil or warfarin. Consequently, it is difficult to conclude from either the published literature or the ZENECA safety database whether there is any evidence to indicate that propofol produces clinically significant drug interactions through inhibition of cytochrome P450-related drug metabolism.