Cytochrome P-450 (P-450) enzymes catalyze the oxidation of a wide variety of substrates. Although a large number of P-450s have been characterized in different species and tissues, the mechanisms of catalysis of oxygenation may be understood in terms of a few basic principles. The chemistry is dominated by the ability of a high-valent formal (FeO)3+ species to carry out one-electron oxidations through the abstraction of hydrogen atoms, abstraction of electrons in n or pi orbitals, or the addition to pi bonds. A series of radical recombination reactions then completes the oxidation process. The protein structures are postulated to provide the axial thiolate ligand to the heme, to control the juxtaposition of the substrate (and therefore the regio- and stereoselectivity of oxidation), to alter the effective oxidation potential of the (FeO)3+ complex, and possibly to participate in specific acid/base catalysis in the oxidation of some substrates.