Benzo(a)pyrene 7,8-dihydrodiol-9,10-epoxide (BPDE), accepted as the ultimate carcinogen of benzo(a)pyrene, has a very short half-life in aqueous solutions yet induces lung tumors when injected into infant mice. To evaluate the possibility that metabolites of BPDE, principally in the form of stable conjugates, contribute to binding to DNA in peripheral tissues, infant mice were injected i.p. with 39 nmol (±) anti-BPDE. One h after injection, 5% of the dose was recovered in serum and appeared mostly as conjugated metabolites (54% as glucuronides and 16% as glutathione conjugates). Amounts of direct acting electrophiles in serum estimated by trapping with DNA comprised less than 0.02% of the injected dose. No more than 10% of the radioactivity in extracts of liver, lung, and kidney was recovered as BPDE. Glutathione conjugates predominated in the liver and lung, whereas glucuronides were the major metabolites in kidney. Radioactivity bound to DNA in liver, lung, and kidney was 21.5, 42.7, and 7.8 pmol/mg, respectively. Despite the rapid conversion of BPDE to stable conjugates, 32P-postlabeling profiles of DNA adducts in lung closely resembled that noted after addition of BPDE directly to lung homogenate. Thus, the reactive intermediate as well as stable conjugates of BPDE may be transported to target tissues where they initiate tumors.

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Supported in part by National Cancer Institute Grant CA20807 and National Institute of Environmental Health Services Center Grant ES05022.

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