The present study provides a detailed kinetic analysis of diazepam metabolism by all four known members of the human P4502C subfamily expressed from their cDNAs in Escherichia coli. Both P4502C18 and P4502C19 were found to be low K(M) diazepam N-demethylases with apparent K(M) values of 24 +/- 4 microM and 21 +/- 3 microM, respectively. These values closely resemble the low K(M) component of diazepam N-demethylase activity exhibited by human liver microsomes. In addition, P4502C19 also catalyzed diazepam 3-hydroxylation with a K(M) value of 21 +/- 9 microM. Although P4502C8 was essentially inactive in catalyzing diazepam metabolism, P4502C9 catalyzed the N-demethylation with a relatively high K(M) of 80 +/- 15 microM and an overall 3- to 6-fold lower catalytic efficiency, compared with P4502C18 and P4502C19, respectively. At a substrate concentration of 10 microM, diazepam N-demethylation in a panel of human liver microsomes was inhibited 42 +/- 12% (mean +/- SD, N = 6) by a polyclonal anti-CYP2C antibody. In the same experiment, 3-hydroxylation remained unaffected (<10% inhibition). 1 microM of the CYP3A inhibitor ketoconazole inhibited 37 +/- 19% of the N-demethylation and 86 +/- 5% of 3-hydroxylation. Estimates of relative contributions to diazepam N-demethylation of P4502C9 (8 +/- 4%), P4502C18 (<2%), and P4502C19 (33 +/- 14%) and to diazepam 3-hydroxylation of P4502C19 (9 +/- 3%) based on the kinetic parameters of the recombinant enzymes and on specific contents of the individual 2C P450s determined in immunoblots are consistent with the inhibition data. In conclusion, these data confirm that both P4502C19 and P4503A are major contributors to human liver microsomal diazepam N-demethylation at low substrate concentrations, whereas P4503A is the major enzyme responsible for 3-hydroxylation.