Hepatic S-[2-(N7-guanyl)ethyl]glutathione DNA adducts were determined in several strains of rats and mice after i.p. injection of a dose of 37 mg ethylene dibromide/kg body wt. More adducts were formed in rats than in mice, while no difference was noted among strains within each species. Removal of adducts in liver DNA was relatively slow in all animals tested. On the contrary, in vitro incubation of calf thymus DNA with ethylene dibromide and either rat cytosol or mouse cytosol gave rise to similar amounts of adduct, yet mouse cytosol showed much higher glutathione (GSH) S-transferase activity toward 1-chloro-2,4-dinitrobenzene. Human cytosol also activated ethylene dibromide, with the extent of conjugation being approximately half that of rat cytosol. Pretreatment of rats with phenobarbital or beta-naphthoflavone induced GSH S-transferases but did not increase the in vivo formation of DNA adducts, suggesting that concomitant induction of cytochrome P450 might abolish the effect of induction of GSH S-transferase by increasing the oxidation of ethylene dibromide. Butylated hydroxytoluene induced GSH S-transferase and also markedly increased DNA adduct levels. Disulfiram, a known cytochrome P450 inhibitor, significantly increased the formation of DNA adducts whereas it did not affect GSH S-transferase activity. Depletion of GSH by pretreatment of rats with diethylmaleate or buthionine sulfoximine resulted in decreased in vivo DNA adduct levels and the degree of reduction was well correlated with the extent of GSH depletion. In vitro incubation of tritiated S-(2-hydroxyethyl)GSH with calf thymus DNA in the presence of 3'-phosphoadenosine-5'-phosphosulfate and rat liver cytosol did not result in significant binding to DNA, suggesting that sulfation of the alcohol does not readily occur to add a leaving group and regenerate an episulfonium ion. These results suggest that induction of the Phase II enzyme GSH S-transferase can be detrimental in the case of ethylene dibromide and that decreases in GSH levels reduce DNA alkylation in rats.