Model building studies have intimated a role for aspartic acid 301 in the substrate binding of cytochrome P450 2D6 (CYP2D6). We have tested this hypothesis by generating a range of CYP2D6 mutants substituting a variety of amino acids at this site. The mutant proteins, which included substitution with a negatively charged glutamic acid residue or neutral asparagine, alanine, or glycine residues, were expressed in Saccharomyces cerevisiae. In addition, a mutant where aspartic acid 301 was deleted was also tested. All the mutants expressed approximately equivalent amounts of recombinant apoprotein and, apart hom the alanine 301 and the aspartic acid 301 deletion mutants, gave carbon monoxide difference spectra of similar magnitude to the wild type. In the cases of the alanine and deletion mutants, the amount of holoprotein was significantly reduced or absent relative to the amount of apoprotein, indicating restricted heme incorporation. The glutamic acid mutant was shown to have similar catalytic properties to the wild type enzyme toward the substrates debrisoquine and metoprolol; however, some differences in regioselectivity and ligand binding were observed. The mutants containing neutral amino acids at position 301 exhibited marked reductions in catalytic activity. At low substrate concentrations little, if any, activity toward debrisoquine and metoprolol was measured. However, at a higher substrate concentration (2 mM) some activity was observed (about 10-20% of wild type levels). Consistent with the above findings, the debrisoquine-induced spin changes in the mutant proteins were markedly reduced These data collectively demonstrate that aspartic acid 301 plays an important role in determining the substrate specificity and activity of CYP2D6 and provide experimental evidence supporting the role of this amino acid in forming an electrostatic interaction between the basic nitrogen atom in CYP2D6 substrates and the carboxylate group of aspartic acid 301.