Butylated hydroxyanisole (BHA) is a food preservative with markedly contradictory effects. On one side many studies showed its antimutagenic and anticarcinogenic effects but on the other side dietary levels of BHA were reported to cause gastrointestinal hyperplasia in rodents. We studied the influence of BHA on cytotoxicity, mutagenicity, and DNA-damaging activity of N-methyl-N'-nitro-N-nitrosoguanidine (MNNG) in Chinese hamster V79 cells cultured in vitro. Our results showed that BHA significantly reduced the frequency of 6-thioguanine resistant (6-TGr) mutations and micronuclei induced in V79 cells by MNNG. These antimutagenic effects of BHA were, however, accompanied by a very marked increase of MNNG toxicity and also slightly increased level of MNNG-induced DNA damage. For evaluation of toxicity we used three methods: (i) trypane blue exclusion; (ii) plating efficiency; and (iii) intensity of cellular macromolecule synthesis. The level of DNA damage was measured by the comet assay. On the basis of obtained results we suggest that BHA, which induces phase II detoxifying enzymes, probably doesn't reduce the level of DNA damage induced in time of MNNG-treatment but it reduces the level of DNA damage created during a long-term period needed for expression of 6-TGr mutations and micronuclei.