Antibodies prepared against the major ?-naphthoflavone (BNF)-inducible cytochrome P450 (P450) forms from three species of fish (rainbow trout, Atlantic cod, and scup) well separated in teleost phylogeny, were used to investigate the immunochemical relatedness of liver microsomal P450 in different species of BNF-treated fish and rat. Rabbit polyclonal IgG against all three P450s and mouse monoclonal antibodies prepared against scup P450E were employed in this study. Liver microsomes were prepared from BNF-treated specimens of hagfish, herring, rainbow trout, cod, scup, perch, plaice and rat. With Western blotting it was shown that the various antibodies cross-reacted with a protein band in liver microsomes in the P450-region of each of the BNF-treated fish species. The apparent molecular weight of the cross-reacting proteins showed differences within the range 54,000-59,000 daltons. The effects of the different antibodies on the microsomal BNF-inducible 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase (EROD) activity gave inhibition patterns that reflected to a certain extent the phylogenetic relationship of the species investigated. In rat microsomes a protein band of relative molecular mass similar to rat P450c (Mr=54,000) was recognized by all antibodies. In addition, a second band of lower molecular mass was strongly recognized by anti-cod P450c antibodies, and faintly stained with anti-rainbow trout P450LM4b IgG and anti-scup P450E MAb 1-12-3. This band could correspond to rat P450d, the isosafrole-inducible rat isoenzyme. Considering the long separate evolutionary history of some of these fishes (50-200 million years), the results demonstrate that certain antigenic epitopes in the BNF-inducible P450 isoenzymes have been strongly conserved during the evolution of fish species. These conserved epitopes seem however not to be directly involved in the measured EROD activities. Furthermore, the results suggest that the BNF-inducible P450s in fish contain regions with structural similarity to the homologous counterpart that has evolved through gene duplication into a P450 family in mammals containing at least two gene products (the P450IA gene family).