Liver endoplasmic reticulum contains as NADPH-dependent electron transport complex where the family of hemeproteins, termed cytochrome P-450, serve as catalysts for the oxidation of a variety of different organic chemicals. The content and inventory of the types of cytochrome P-450 is readily modified following in vivo treatment of animals with 'inducing agents' such as barbiturates, steroids and polycyclic hydrocarbons. Recent studies have applied the methods of molecular biology to evaluate changes in the transcription and translation of genomic information occurring concomitant with the initiation of synthesis of various types of cytochrome P-450. The ability to isolate unique cytochrome P-450 proteins and to prepare specific antibodies now permits the study of in vitro translation of mRNA and the preparation of specific cDNAs. The present review summarizes the historic background leading to current concepts of cytochrome P-450 induction and describes recent advances in our knowledge of the regulation of cytochrome P-450 synthesis in the liver.