Modification of cellular DNA upon exposure to reactive oxygen and nitrogen species is the likely initial event involved in the induction of the mutagenic and lethal effects of various oxidative stress agents. Evidence has been accumulated for the significant implication of singlet oxygen (1O(2)), generated as the result of UVA activation of endogenous photosensitizers as porphyrins and flavins. 7,8-Dihydro-8-oxo-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodGuo) has been shown to be the exclusive product of the reaction of 1O(2) with the guanine moiety of cellular DNA, in contrast to the hydroxyl radical, which reacts almost indifferently with all the nucleobases and the sugar moiety of DNA. Furthermore 8-oxodGuo is also produced by other oxidants and can be used as an ubiquitous biomarker of DNA oxidation but can not be a specific marker of any particular species. The role of DNA etheno adducts in mutagenic and carcinogenic processes triggered by known occupational and environmental carcinogens has also been studied. Much interest in etheno adducts resulted from the detection of increased levels of 1,N(6)-etheno-2'-deoxyadenosine and 3,N(4)-etheno-2'-deoxycytidine in DNA from human, rat and mouse tissues under pathophysiological conditions associated with oxidative stress. A method involving on-line HPLC with electrospray tandem mass spectrometry detection has been developed for the analysis of 1,N(2)-etheno-2'-deoxyguanosine (1,N(2)-epsilondGuo) in DNA. This methodology permits direct quantification of 20 fmol (7.4 adducts/10(8) dGuo) of the etheno adduct from approximately 350 microg of crude DNA hydrolysates. This method provides the first evidence of the occurrence of 1,N(2)-epsilondGuo as a basal endogenous lesion and may be utilized to better assess the biological consequences of etheno DNA damage under normal and pathological conditions. This work addresses the importance of isotope labeling associated with mass spectrometry technique for biomolecule damage studies.