Aromatic hydroxylation of 5-phenyl-5-ethylhydantoin (PEH) has been investigated in humans. Single oral doses of S-PEH (247 mumol) were given to seven extensive and seven poor hydroxylators of mephenytoin. Urinary recovery of PEH and 5-(4-hydroxyphenyl)-5-ethylhydantoin (4-OH-PEH) indicated that all extensive metabolizer subjects excreted appreciable quantities of 4-OH-PEH, whereas all poor metabolizer subjects had only trace amounts of 4-OH-PEH in their urine. Four extensive metabolizer subjects received dual radiolabeled (S-[14C]PEH, R-[3H]PEH) pseudoracemic (494 mumol R-PEH, 494 mumol S-PEH) PEH and had serial urine and blood samples collected over 16 days. The urinary excretion rates of S-PEH and S-4-OH-PEH had half-lives of approximately 4.5 days whereas those of R-PEH and R-4-OH-PEH were approximately 10 days. The initial S/R ratio of 4-OH-PEH in urine was 14:1 whereas that of PEH was 1:1. Stereoselective hydroxylation in these four subjects was confirmed by the negligible recovery of 4-OH-PEH after oral administration of R-PEH (494 mumol). After racemic administration, the sum of S-and R-PEH plasma concentrations declined biexponentially with half-lives of the alpha- and beta-phases being consistent with the total plasma concentration reflecting the sum of the different rates of elimination of the two enantiomers. These results are consistent with the hypothesis that the same drug metabolizing enzymes are involved in the aromatic hydroxylation of S-mephenytoin and S-PEH.