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The development of enzyme and buffer premixes for in vitro biotransformation assays is described. The protein premixes contain a mixture of three recombinant human proteins, cytochrome P450 (P450) 3A4, NADPH-P450 reductase, cytochrome b5, and liposomes. The buffer premix contains reagents which, when diluted, provide for optimal metabolic activity with selected P450 3A4 substrates. P450 3A4 premixes were competent in the oxidation of known substrates including testosterone, midazolam, nifedipine, erythromycin, benzphetamine, and amitriptyline. Premixes stored at -80 degrees C for 2 months and those that underwent an additional five freeze/thaw cycles were able to hydroxylate testosterone at turnover rates similar to freshly prepared reconstitution mixes. In addition, premixes stored unfrozen at 4 degrees C for 2 weeks showed no significant loss in the rate of testosterone 6 beta-hydroxylation by P450 3A4. Premixes prepared with and without reduced glutathione, a component which had previously been found to be important for P450 3A4 reactions, were equally efficient at carrying out testosterone hydroxylation under these conditions. Kinetic parameters determined for the metabolism of testosterone, amitriptyline, nifedipine, and benzphetamine using P450 3A4 premixes were compared with human pooled microsomes and insect microsomes prepared from cells infected with a baculovirus containing two cDNA inserts coding for P450 3A4 and NADPH-P450 reductase. Each format gave different Vmax and K(m) values indicating different catalytic efficiencies. Analysis of P450 1A2 premixes which contained different lipid concentrations indicated that Vmax and K(m) could be altered. The availability of human P450 recombinant enzymes and the development of the P450 premixes that remain active after being stored frozen should allow for rapid identification of novel P450 substrates and inhibitors and the development of large-scale screening assays.