The presence of a very active cytochrome P-450-dependent drug-metabolizing system in the olfactory epithelium has been confirmed by using 7-ethoxycoumarin, 7-ethoxyresorufin, hexobarbitone and aniline as substrates, and the reasons for the marked activity of the cytochrome P-450 in this tissue have been investigated. The spectral interaction of hexobarbitone and aniline with hepatic and olfactory microsomes has been examined. By this criterion there was no evidence for marked differences in the spin state of the cytochromes of the two tissues, or for the olfactory epithelium containing a greater amount of cytochrome capable of binding hexobarbitone, a very actively metabolized substrate. Rates of NADPH and NADH: cytochrome c reductase activity were found to be higher in the olfactory epithelium than in the liver, and direct evidence was obtained for a greater amount of the NADPH-dependent flavoprotein in the olfactory microsomes. Investigation of male rats and male and female mice, as well as male hamsters, demonstrated that, in all cases, the cytochrome P-450 levels of the olfactory epithelium were lower than those of the liver, while the 7-ethoxycoumarin de-ethylase and NADPH:cytochrome c reductase activities were higher. A correlation was found between 7-ethoxycoumarin de-ethylase and NADPH:cytochrome c reductase activities for both tissues in all species examined. The ratio of reductase to cytochrome P-450 was found to be considerably higher in the olfactory epithelium (1:2-1:3) than in the liver (1:11-1:15), regardless of the species examined, suggesting that facilitated electron flow may contribute significantly to the cytochrome P-450 catalytic turnover in the olfactory tissue.