A method is described for the assay of the major malondialdehyde-deoxyguanosine adduct (M1G) based on immunoaffinity purification and gas chromatography/electron capture/negative chemical ionization/mass spectrometry. A stable isotope of M1G-deoxyribose ([2H2]M1G-dR) was used as an internal standard. Recovery of internal standard throughout the entire assay procedure was approximately 40%. The assay showed a linear response over a range of 10-1000 pg of M1G-dR and was verified by analysis of a synthetic. M1G-containing oligomer. The limit of detection in biological samples was 100 fmol/sample, corresponding to 3 adducts/10(8) bases for 1 mg of DNA. DNA was isolated from the blood of 10 healthy human donors, and M1G levels were measured. A mean value of 6.2 +/- 1.2 adducts/10(8) bases was obtained, with no obvious differences bases on age or cigarette smoking. A small, but statistically significant difference was observed between the levels in females (5.1 +/- 0.4 adducts/10(8) bases) and males 6.7 +/- 1.1 adducts/10(8) bases). The presence of M1G in leukocyte DNA was further verified by analysis using liquid chromatography/electrospray ionization mass spectrometry.