A cytochrome P450 (P450) enzyme in porcine liver that catalyzed the phenol-coupling reaction of the substrate (R)-reticuline to salutaridine was previously purified to homogeneity (Amann, T., Roos, P. H., Huh, H., and Zenk, M. H. (1995) Heterocycles 40, 425-440). This reaction was found to be catalyzed by human P450s 2D6 and 3A4 in the presence of (R)-reticuline and NADPH to yield not a single product, but rather (-)-isoboldine, (-)-corytuberine, (+)-pallidine, and salutaridine, the para-ortho coupled established precursor of morphine in the poppy plant and most likely also in mammals. (S)-Reticuline, a substrate of both P450 enzymes, yielded the phenol-coupled alkaloids (+)-isoboldine, (+)-corytuberine, (-)-pallidine, and sinoacutine; none of these serve as a morphine precursor. Catalytic efficiencies were similar for P450 2D6 and P450 3A4 in the presence of cytochrome b(5) with (R)-reticuline as substrate. The mechanism of phenol coupling is not yet established; however, we favor a single cycle of iron oxidation to yield salutaridine and the three other alkaloids from (R)-reticuline. The total yield of salutaridine formed can supply the 10 nm concentration of morphine found in human neuroblastoma cell cultures and in brain tissues of mice.