Previous studies have shown that high levels of cytochrome P450 can occur in cardiac microsomes of vertebrates [Mol. Pharmacol. 21:517-526, (1982)]. Here we identify the dominant cardiac P450 in the marine fish scup as P450E, a teleost representative of P450IA1, and we describe its restricted cellular localization in the heart. Treatment of scup with beta-naphthoflavone produced an unusually strong (10-fold) induction of spectrally measured P450 in cardiac microsomes, with specific content reaching levels (0.5 nmol/mg) similar to those induced in scup liver. Microsomal ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase and aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase activities, catalytic functions of scup P450E, were induced in parallel with P450 content. Similar induction was seen in both atrium and ventricle. Immunoblot analysis with monoclonal antibody 1-12-3, specific to scup P450E and other vertebrate P450IA1 proteins, showed that this hydrocarbon-inducible P450 is the dominant and possibly sole P450 form in heart microsomes of experimentally induced animals. Immunohistochemical analysis of scup heart sections (2-4-microns) with monoclonal antibody 1-12-3 revealed that P450E was detectable only in endothelial cells of the endocardium and of the coronary vasculature. A similar endothelial cell localization of the monoclonal antibody 1-12-3 epitope was observed in heart of rainbow trout, induced with beta-naphthoflavone, indicating a general nature for the endothelial localization of induced cardiac P450. Morphometric analysis showed that endothelium could constitute 8-9% of the volume of teleost heart, from which we calculate that P450IA1 could account for as much as 25% of the endothelial cell microsomal protein. Heart microsomes of untreated animals from contaminated environments also contained high levels of P450E, indicating that induction like that caused by beta-naphthoflavone could occur with chemicals in the environment. Strongly induced P450E (P450IA1) in endothelium could play a critical role in chemical-biological interactions involving xenobiotics affecting the vasculature of the heart or other organs.