The metabolism of the mutagen 2-amino-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (MeIQx) was investigated with human and rat liver microsomes, recombinant human cytochrome P450 1A2 (P450 1A2) expressed in Escherichia coli cells, and rat P450 1A2. Human liver microsomes and human P450 1A2 catalyzed the oxidation of the exocyclic amine group of MeIQx to form the genotoxic product 2-(hydroxyamino)-3,8-dimethylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (HONH-MeIQx). Human P450 1A2 also catalyzed the oxidation of C(8)-methyl group of MeIQx to form 2-amino-(8-hydroxymethyl)-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (8-CH(2)OH-IQx), 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline-8-carbaldehyde (IQx-8-CHO), and 2-amino-3-methylimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline-8-carboxylic acid (IQx-8-COOH). Thus, chemically stable C(8)-oxidation products of MeIQx may be useful biomarkers of P450 1A2 activity in humans. Rat liver microsomes were 10-15-fold less active than the human counterpart at both N-oxidation and C(8)-oxidation of MeIQx when expressed as nanomoles of product formed per minute per nanomoles of P450 1A2. Differences in regioselective oxidation of MeIQx were also observed with human and rat liver microsomes and the respective P450 1A2 orthologs. In contrast to human liver microsomes and P450 1A2, rat liver microsomes and purified rat P4501A2 were unable to catalyze the oxidation of MeIQx to the carboxylic derivative IQx-8-COOH, an important detoxication product formed in humans. However, rat liver microsomes and rat P4501A2, but not human liver microsomes or human P450 1A2, extensively catalyzed ring oxidation at the C-5 position of MeIQx to form the detoxication product 2-amino-3,8-dimethyl-5-hydroxyimidazo[4,5-f]quinoxaline (5-HO-MeIQx). There are important differences between human and rat P450 1A2, both in catalytic activities and oxidation pathways of MeIQx, that may affect the biological activity of this carcinogen and must be considered when assessing human health risk.