Groups of λlacZ transgenic mice were treated i.p. with N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA) as single doses of 5 mg/kg or 10 mg/kg or as 10 daily doses of 1 mg/kg and changes in DNA N7- or O6-methylguanine or the repair enzyme O6-alkylguanine-DNA alkyltransferase (AGT) were followed for up to 14 days in various tissues. Adduct induction in the liver exceeded by at least one order of magnitude than observed in the next nearest target tissue (lung), and was approximately linearly related to dose, except for O6-methylguanine after the first dose of 1 mg/kg which was lower than expected. Substantial induction of λlacZ mutagenesis was observed only in the liver, where the mutant frequency was already maximal within 7 days after 5 mg/kg NDMA and remained unchanged thereafter up to 49 days. Small but marginally significant increases in mutant frequency were consistently observed in the spleen after all three modes of treatment. A lack of proportionality between mutation induction and the administered dose or the corresponding adduct levels was observed, probably reflecting the importance of toxicity-related cell proliferation caused by NDMA at higher doses. Twenty eight days after a dose of 10 mg/kg (causing a 3.6-fold increase in mutant frequency), NDMA was found to increase the frequency of GC→AT mutations (with a concomitant shift of their preferential location from CpG sites to GpG sites), which made up ~ 60% of the induced mutations. Surprisingly, NDMA also caused a significant increase in deletions of a few (up to 11) base-pairs (22%).