Alligator mississippiensis has at least two classes of inducible hepatic microsomal cytochromes P450 (CYP): (1) those induced by 3-methylcholanthrene (3MC), and (2) those induced by phenobarbital (PB). The rates of induction by these xenobiotic compounds are significantly slower than those reported for mammals. Carbon monoxide binding, western blots, and enzymatic activity measurements indicated that at least 48-72 hr are required to reach full induction. A methoxy-, ethoxy-, pentoxy, and benzyloxyphenoxazone (resorufin) O-dealkylation (MROD, EROD, PROD, and BROD) profile was indicative of substrate selectivity typical of 3MC- and PB-induced P450s. MROD and BROD showed the greatest ability to discriminate between alligator hepatic microsomes induced by 3MC and PB, respectively. This is in contrast to mammals, in which EROD is a biomarker of polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon exposure because of its ability to discriminate the induction of CYP 1A. In a similar manner, PROD is a highly preferred activity of CYP 2B in mammals; thus, it is used to indicate CYP 2B induction. The induction of P450 by PB is a general phenomenon in mammals and birds. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first report demonstrating PB induction of P450 activities typical of the mammalian CYP 2 family isoforms in alligator or any reptilian liver. The importance of this finding to the evolution of CYP 2 family regulation by PB is heightened by the fact that induction by this xenobiotic is not common to fish and other lower vertebrates (Ertl RP and Winston GW, Comp Biochem Physiol, in press). Although indicating the presence of CYP 1A- and CYP 2B-like isoforms in alligator, it remains to be established how closely related these alligator P450s are to mammalian isoforms.