The soy isoflavones daidzein, genistein and glycitein are extensively metabolized by rat liver microsomes to a variety of catechol metabolites. Hydroxylated metabolites of daidzein and genistein have also been demonstrated in incubations with human hepatic microsomes and in the urine of humans after ingestion of soy food. Although the microsomal metabolism of formononetin and biochanin A is dominated by demethylation to daidzein and genistein, respectively, catechols of the parent isoflavones and of the demethylation products are also formed. Thus, oxidative metabolism appears to be common among isoflavones and may have implications for their biological activities. As genistein but not daidzein exhibits clastogenic activity in cultured mammalian cells, the role of oxidative metabolism for the genotoxicity of isoflavones is of particular interest.