Cytochrome P-450 enzymes have been postulated to oxidize amines through a variety of mechanisms. One of the means of distinguishing among potential pathways involves the use of kinetic hydrogen isotope effects: low isotope effects are characteristic of aminium radical mechanisms while high values are consistent with hydrogen atom abstraction, a process documented in alkane hydroxylation. Nifedipine [1,4-dihydro-2,6-dimethyl-4-(2-nitrophenyl)-3,5-pyridinedicarboxylic+ ++ acid dimethyl ester] was prepared with isotopic substitution at the 4-position and utilized in determinations of the deuterium and tritium kinetic isotope effects. The noncompetitive intermolecular deuterium [DV, D(V/K)] and competitive intermolecular tritium [T(V/K)] isotope effects observed in the oxidation of nifedipine with liver microsomes prepared from untreated male rats were less than 2. Similar low deuterium and tritium isotope effects (less than 2) were also found with six other types of rat liver microsomal preparations and with three different human liver microsomal preparations, even though the rates of oxidation (expressed per nanomole of total cytochrome P-450) varied by an order of magnitude and other investigations indicate that several different cytochrome P-450 enzymes can catalyze the reaction. Similar low deuterium and tritium isotope effects were measured with a purified rat liver cytochrome P-450 preparation and horseradish peroxidase. These results are interpreted in terms of an electron/proton/electron transfer mechanism previously postulated for the oxidation of other dihydropyridines by cytochrome P-450 enzymes and model one-electron acceptors and argue against a mechanism involving hydrogen atom abstraction from nifedipine.