The antidotal effect of vitamin K in overcoming poisoning by coumarin anticoagulant drugs is mediated by a vitamin K-reducing enzyme of the endoplasmic reticulum [Wallin & Martin (1987) Biochem. J. 241, 389-396]. With microsomes obtained from human liver biopsies, we have investigated the localization and the transverse orientation of this enzyme in the endoplasmic reticulum and compared its orientation to that of the other enzymes of the vitamin K-dependent carboxylation system. All enzymes were protected by the microsomal membrane and thus appear to have a luminal orientation in the endoplasmic reticulum, consistent with their role in the vitamin K-dependent modification of secretory glycoproteins. Separation of rough and smooth microsomes showed that vitamin K-dependent carboxylase activity was 6-fold higher in rough than in smooth microsomes. Vitamin K1 reduction by the coumarin-drug-sensitive (pathway I) and -insensitive (pathway II) enzymes of the vitamin K-dependent carboxylation system was the same in rough and smooth microsomes. The data suggest a close association between the pathway I and II enzymes in the endoplasmic reticulum. These pathways may be partial reactions of multienzyme complex which carries out the various activities associated with the vitamin K-dependent carboxylation system.