The drinking water disinfection byproduct bromodichloromethane (CHBrCl(2)) was previously shown to be mutagenic in Salmonella typhimurium that overexpress rat glutathione transferase theta 1-1 (GSTT1-1). Several experimental approaches were undertaken in this study to investigate the DNA covalent binding potential of reactive intermediates generated by GSTT1-1-mediated metabolism of CHBrCl(2). First, rodent hepatic cytosol incubations containing [(14)C]CHBrCl(2), supplemented glutathione (GSH), and calf thymus DNA resulted in approximately 3-fold (rat liver cytosol) and 7-fold (mouse liver cytosol) greater amounts of total radioactivity (RAD) associated with the purified DNA as compared to a control (absence of rodent cytosol) following liquid scintillation counting (LSC) of isolated DNA. The relative increase in DNA labeling is consistent with the conjugation activity of these rodent cytosols toward CHBrCl(2). Second, exposure of GSTT1-1-expressing S. typhimurium to [(14)C]CHBrCl(2) resulted in a concentration-dependent increase of bacterial DNA-associated total radioactivity. Characterization of DNA-associated radioactivity could not be assigned to a specific deoxynucleoside adduct(s) following enzymatic hydrolysis of DNA and subsequent HPLC analysis. A possible explanation for this observation was formation of a 'transient' adduct that was unstable in the DNA isolation and hydrolysis procedures employed. To circumvent problems of adduct instability, reactions of [(14)C]CHBrCl(2) with GSH catalyzed by recombinant rat GSTT1-1 were performed in the presence of calf thymus DNA or, alternatively, the model nucleophile deoxyguanosine. Hydroxyapatite chromatography of [(14)C]-labeled DNA or HPLC chromatography of [(14)C]-labeled deoxyguanosine derivatives demonstrated the covalent binding of [(14)C]CHBrCl(2)-derived metabolites to DNA and deoxyguanosine in low yield (approximately 0.02% of [(14)C]CHBrCl(2) biotransformed by GSTT1-1 resulted in DNA adducts). Cytochrome P450 (CYP)- and GST-catalyzed biotransformation of CHBrCl(2) in rat tissues (kidney and large intestine) that develop tumors following chronic CHBrCl(2) exposure were compared with rat liver (a nontarget tissue). Rat liver had a significant capacity to detoxify CHBrCl(2) (to carbon dioxide) compared with kidney and large intestine as a result of CYP-catalyzed oxidation, liver was approximately 16-fold more efficient than kidney and large intestine when intrinsic clearance values (V(max)/K(m)) were compared. In contrast, the efficiency of GST-mediated GSH conjugation of CHBrCl(2) in kidney and large intestine was only slightly lower than liver (approximately 2- to 4-fold lower), thus, the relative amounts of reactive intermediates that are produced with the capacity to covalently modify DNA may be enhanced in these extrahepatic tissues. The significance of these findings is that conjugation of CHBrCl(2) with GSH can result in the covalent modification of DNA and that cancer target tissues in rats have a much reduced detoxification capacity, but only a modest decrease in bioactivation capacity, as compared to the liver (a nontarget tissue in rats).