Membrane lipid peroxidation processes yield products that may react with DNA to cause oxidative modifications. We have investigated this possibility and have found that calf thymus DNA exposed to autooxidized lipids causes the formation of 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OH-dG). 8-OH-dG formation in DNA was measured using high-pressure liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Methyl linolenate oxidized for different lengths of time was exposed to DNA. The amount of 8-OH-dG formed in DNA was proportional to the amount of lipid peroxidation as measured by the thiobarbituric reactive substances present. The formation of 8-OH-dG in DNA by autooxidized methyl linolenate was dependent on the presence of the transition metal ions Cu or Fe and was inhibited by various scavengers, including superoxide dismutase and catalase. This implicates the involvement of oxygen free radicals in the process. Liposomes formed from phosphatidylcholine (82%) and methyl arachidonate (18%) were peroxidized for different lengths of time and then exposed to DNA. 8-OH-dG was formed in DNA by exposure to Cu(II) and peroxidized liposomes. Under these conditions, Fe(III) was slightly less effective than Cu(II) in mediating 8-OH-dG formation. These observations clearly show that 8-OH-dG formation in DNA may result from processes that may occur during intracellular lipid peroxidation.