The amine oxidases of mammalian tissues are a heterogeneous family of enzymes that metabolise various monoamines, diamines and polyamines produced endogenously, or being absorbed as dietary or xenobiotic substances. The heterogeneous class of amine oxidases can be divided on an arbitrary basis of the chemical nature of their cofactors into two types. Monoamine oxidase (MAO) and an intracellular form of polyamine oxidase (PAO) contain flavin adenine dinucleotide (FAD) as their cofactor, whereas a second group of amine oxidases without FAD contain a cofactor possessing one or more carbonyl groups, making them sensitive to inhibition by carbonyl reagents such as semicarbazide; this group includes semicarbazide-sensitive amine oxidase (SSAO) and the connective tissue enzyme, lysyl oxidase. This article focuses on the general aspects of MAO's contribution to the metabolism of foreign toxic substances including toxins and illegal drugs. Another main objective of this review is to discuss the properties of PAO and SSAO and their involvement in the metabolism of xenobiotics.