The effect of the metal-chelating agent 1,10-phenanthroline (PNT) on the clastogenesis induced by streptonigrin (SN) in CHO cells was investigated. When CHO cells were exposed to SN, chromosomal aberrations (CAs) and sister-chromatid exchanges (SCEs) were formed in a dose-dependent manner (P < 0.05). When PNT was present in the culture medium, the production of CAs by SN was strongly inhibited (inhibition range = 54.9-80.8%). Similarly, the induction of SCEs by SN was significantly decreased by the addition of PNT to CHO cultures (P < 0.05), although the effect was minor. This finding suggests that intracellular transition metals are implicated in the clastogenesis by SN, and that the Fenton reaction (Fe(2+) + H2O2 --> OH* + OH(-) + Fe(3+)) may be responsible for the production of CAs by this compound. Moreover, the fact that PNT did not completely inhibit the induction of SCEs by SN suggests that this phenomenon might be attributable to a different mechanism, in which transition metals and free radicals play a minor role.