Four benzo-ring epoxides of the environmental carcinogen benzo(a)pyrene (BP) were tested for mutagenic and cytotoxic activity in 3 strains of Salmonella typhimurium (TA1538, TA98, and TA100) and in Chinese hamster V79 cells. Although very unstable in aqueous solution, 7β,8α-dihydroxy-9β,10β-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene (diol epoxide 1), with the 7-hydroxyl group on the same face of the molecule as the epoxide oxygen, was 1.5 to 4 times as mutagenic in the bacterial strains as was its more stable stereoisomer 7β,8α-dihydroxy-9α,10β-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene (diol epoxide 2). In V79 cells, diol epoxide 1 had one-third the mutagenic activity of diol epoxide 2 but was at least 10 times more labile than diol epoxide 2 in the tissue culture medium. The half-life of diol epoxide 1 in tissue culture medium was about 30 sec, whereas the half-life of diol epoxide 2 was between 6 and 12 min. 9,10-Epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene, which is saturated in the benzo ring, is also very unstable and has mutagenic activity equal to or greater than diol epoxide 1 in the bacterial and mammalian cells. 7,8-Epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene was more stable in aqueous solution than any of the 9,10-epoxides of BP but was much less mutagenic in both the bacterial and mammalian cells. In V79 cells, diol epoxides 1 and 2 and 9,10-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene were more than 40 times more cytotoxic than 7,8-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo(a)pyrene. The mutagenicity of the 2 tetrahydro epoxides toward strain TA98 of S. typhimurium was readily abolished by purified epoxide hydrase, whereas the mutagenic activity of the 2 diol epoxides was relatively unaffected by coincubation with the enzyme.

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