Human cytochrome P450 1A2 metabolizes a large number of common drugs and engages in carcinogen metabolism and activation. Baculovirus-expressed 1A2 was used to immunize mice producing hybridomas yielding monoclonal antibodies (MAbs). Three of 2050 clones assayed yielded the MAbs, MAb 26-7-5, MAb 951-5-1, MAb 1812-2-4, which were specific for 1A2 as assessed by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunoblots. The three MAbs inhibited 1A2-catalysed metabolism of phenacetin, 7-ethoxycoumarin, chlorzoxazone and phenanthrene by more than 85%. The MAbs were highly specific to 1A2 and did not inhibit 11 other human P450s. The phenancetin O-deethylation activity varied from 0.44-2.49 nmol/min/nmol P450 in eight human liver microsomes samples. MAb 26-7-5 inhibited 1A2-dependent phenacetin O-deethylation in these samples by 64-84% indicating the amount of 1A2 contribution to this reaction and in addition a role for other P450s in the O-deethylation. Independent analysis of recombinant human P450s showed that 1A1, 1A2, 2A6 and 2C19 exhibited phenacetin O-deethylation activity, with 1A1 and 1A2 being the most active followed by 2C19 and 2A6. Eight other P450s were inactive towards phenacetin O-deethylation. The role of different P450 in eight liver samples was analysed with specific individual inhibitory MAbs. Inhibitory antibodies to 1A2, 2C8/9/18/19, 2A6, 2D6, 2E1, and 1A1 were combinatorially added to the microsomes. The O-deethylation activity was inhibited by antibodies to 1A2 (64-84%), to 2C19 (4.6-20%) and to 2A6 (0-8.8%). The total activity inhibited by antibodies to P450 2E1, 2D6 and 1A1 was less than 4.5%, indicating a minor role for these P450s in phenancetin metabolism in human liver microsomes. Thus, 1A2, 2C 9 and 2A6 are the dominant P450s for phenacetin O-deethylation. These studies demonstrate the use of inhibitory MAbs to P450s for a simple and precise assessment of the quantitative role of each P450 in the metabolism of substrates, including drugs, carcinogens, mutagens, environmental chemicals and endobiotics.