In order to survey changes and activities in the polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbon (PAH)-metabolizing enzymes implicated in lung cancer susceptibility studies, we investigated enzyme induction by 2-5-ring-sized ‘biomarker’ PAHs in rat liver and lung, and the activities in five human lung specimens. Naphthalene, phenanthrene, pyrene, chrysene, and benzo[a]pyrene (BaP) were administered to rats for 3 days (25-128 mg/kg/day) and the responses compared with those of model inducers. PAH treatment increased the CYP1A-catalyzed activity of pyrene 1-hydroxylation and 7-ethoxyresorufin O-deethylation in rat liver by up to 28- and 279-fold, and in rat lung by up to 22- and 51-fold, respectively. 1-Naphthol (hUGT1A6), 1-hydroxypyrene (hUGT1A6/1A9), and entacapone (hUGT1A9) are markers of PAH-glucuronidating human uridine diphosphate-glucuronosyltransferases (UGT). These activities increased up to 6.4-fold in rat liver and up to 1.9-fold in rat lung. NADPH:quinone oxidoreductase 1 (NQO1) and glutathione S-transferase activities increased up to 5.3- and 1.6-fold (liver), and up to 4.4- and 1.4-fold (lung), respectively. CYP1A showed the best liver-to-lung relationship (R2 = 0.90). The inducing efficiency by PAHs differed extensively: control ≤ naphthalene < phenanthrene, pyrene << chrysene < BaP. In human lung (non-smokers), the marker activities of CYP1A1, UGT1A6/1A9, and NQO1 were lower than those in rat lung. Epoxide hydrolase activity was 1,000-fold higher than the pulmonary CYP1A1 activities. Human UGT and NQO1 displayed large variations (>60-fold), many times greater than the experimental (inducible/constitutive) variation in the rat. Kinetics of 1-hydroxypyrene glucuronidation showed two low-Km forms both in rat and human lung. Since the 2-4-ring PAHs (major constituents) were poor enzyme inducers, it appears that the PAH-metabolizing pathways are mainly induced by BaP-type minor constituents. Gene-environmental interactions which magnify polymorphic variability in pulmonary bioactivation/detoxification capacity probably play a key role in individual susceptibility to (or protection against) chemically induced lung cancer. Hence, human exposure to PAH mixtures with high content of BaP-type hydrocarbons confers a potentially higher health risk than PAH mixtures with low content of procarcinogens.