trans-4-Hydroxynonenal (HNE) is a major peroxidation product of omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids. The reaction of HNE with DNA gives four diastereomeric 1,N(2)-gamma-hydroxypropano adducts of deoxyguanosine; background levels of these adducts have been detected in animal tissue. Stereospecific syntheses of these four adducts at the nucleoside level have been accomplished. In addition, a versatile strategy for their site-specific incorporation into oligonucleotides has been developed. These adducts are destabilizing as measured by melting temperature when compared to an unadducted strand. The thermal destablization of the adducted 12-mers ranged from 5 to 16 degrees C and is dependent on the absolute stereochemistry of the adduct. The HNE adducts were also examined for their ability to form interstrand DNA-DNA cross-links when incorporated into a CpG sequence. We find that only one of the HNE stereoisomers formed interstrand DNA-DNA cross-links.