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CYP3A activity in adults varies between individuals and it has been suggested that this has a genetic basis, possibly related to variant alleles in CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 genes. Accordingly, genotype–phenotype associations were investigated under constitutive and induced conditions. Midazolam's systemic and oral clearances, and the erythromycin breath test (ERBT) were determined in 57 healthy subjects: 23 (11 men, 12 women) European- and 34 (14 men, 20 women) African-Americans. Studies were undertaken in the basal state and after 14–15 days pretreatment with rifampin. DNA was characterized for the common polymorphisms CYP3A4*1B, CYP3A5*3, CYP3A5*6 and CYP3A5*7 by direct sequencing, and for exon 21 and exon 26 variants of MDR1 by allele-specific, real-time polymerase chain reaction. In 95% of subjects, the basal systemic clearance of midazolam was unimodally distributed and variability was less than four-fold whereas, in 98% of the study population, oral clearance varied five-fold. No population or sex-related differences were apparent. Similar findings were observed with the ERBT. Rifampin pretreatment markedly increased the systemic (two-fold) and oral clearance (16-fold) of midazolam, and the ERBT (two-fold) but the variabilities were unchanged. No associations were noted between these phenotypic measures and any of the studied genotypes, except for oral clearance and its fold-increase after rifampin. These were related to the presence of CYP3A4*1B and the inversely linked CYP3A5*3 polymorphism, with the extent of induction being approximately 50% greater in CYP3A5*3 homozygotes compared to wild-type subjects. In most healthy subjects, variability in intestinal and hepatic CYP3A activity, using midazolam as an in-vivo probe, is modest and common polymorphisms in CYP3A4 and CYP3A5 do not appear to have important functional significance.