The metabolism of benzo(a)pyrene by rabbit liver microsomes can be stimulated or inhibited by 7,8-benzo(a)flavone (ANF) depending on the distribution of specific P-450 enzymes present within the microsomes. Treatment of rabbits with either 2,3,7,8-tetrachlorodibenzo-p-dioxin (TCDD) or rifampicin leads to an increase of hepatic microsomal metabolism of benzo(a)pyrene. ANF stimulates the rate of benzo(a)pyrene metabolism catalyzed by microsomes isolated from rabbits treated with rifampicin by 3-fold. In contrast, ANF moderately inhibits the activity of microsomes from TCDD-treated rabbits. Variations in the benzo(a)pyrene hydroxylase activity of microsomes from untreated rabbits apparently reflect differences in the expression of P-450 1, a constitutive form of P-450. Thus, the benzo(a)pyrene hydroxylase activity of microsomes from untreated rabbits, which varies from 0.40 to 1.5 nmol/min/mg of protein, is directly correlated with the microsomal concentration of P-450 1. The metabolism of benzo(a)pyrene by microsomes containing high concentrations of P-450 1 is inhibited by a monoclonal antibody specific for this cytochrome to approximately the rate exhibited by microsomes with a low concentration of P-450 1. The benzo(a)pyrene activity stimulated by ANF in microsomes with a low concentration of P-450 1 is not inhibited by the monoclonal antibody. The activity of P-450 1 is inhibited by ANF at concentrations that stimulate other constitutive forms of P-450. Thus, ANF produces offsetting effects on benzo(a)pyrene metabolism in microsomes from untreated animals by stimulating the activity of at least one cytochrome and inhibiting P-450 1-mediated activity.