We recently demonstrated that microsomes from nicardipine-treated rats will form cytochrome P450 3A (CYP3A) aggregates when incubated at 37 degrees C. CYP3A substrates inhibited the protein aggregation and subsequent degradation, suggesting that this process is important in substrate-mediated stabilization of CYP3A. In this paper, we demonstrate that oxidative stress is a key factor in the formation of CYP3A aggregates in incubated microsomes and in a reconstituted system with purified enzymes. Our data further suggest that the effects of oxidative stress are mediated by lipid hydroperoxides, which are efficiently metabolized by CYP3A. In the presence of substrate, the CYP3A-mediated lipid hydroperoxide metabolism is inhibited along with the associated protein aggregation. Therefore, these studies provide a mechanistic model of why CYP3A has a relatively short half-life and how substrates stabilize CYP3A.