Background This study developed a novel high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) method for the simultaneous quantification of clozapine and its active metabolite, N-desmethylclozapine, in human plasma and investigated the effects of various factors, including genetic polymorphisms in cytochrome P450 (CYP) 2D6, CYP3A5, ABCB1 and ABCG2, on the steady-state plasma trough concentrations (C0) of clozapine and N-desmethylclozapine in Japanese patients with schizophrenia. Methods Forty-five patients had been receiving fixed doses of clozapine for at least four weeks. The CYP2D6 ( CYP2D6*2, CYP2D6*5, CYP2D6*10), CYP3A5 ( CYP3A5*3), ABCB1 (1236C > T, 2677G > T/A, 3435C > T) and ABCG2 (421 C > A) genotypes were identified by polymerase chain reaction. Results The within- and between-day coefficients of variation (CV) were less than 11.0%, and accuracy was within 9.0% over the linear range from 10 to 2500 ng/mL for both analytes, and their LOQs were each 10 ng/mL. The median C0/dose (C0/D) ratios of clozapine were significantly higher in patients with the ABCG2 421 A allele than in those with the 421 C/C genotype ( P = 0.010). However, there were no significant differences in C0/D ratios of clozapine and N-desmethylclozapine among ABCB1, CYP2D6 or CYP3A5 genotypes. In multiple regression analysis, including polymorphisms, age, body weight and biochemical data of patients, the ABCG2 polymorphism alone was correlated with the C0/D ratios of clozapine ( R2 = 0.139, P = 0.016). Conclusions Among the various CYPs and drug transporters, BCRP appeared to most strongly influence clozapine exposure. Knowledge of the patient's ABCG2 421 C > A genotype before initiating therapy may be useful when making dosing decisions aimed at achieving optimal clozapine exposure.