Effects of diacylmethanes on the mutagenicity of 2-naphthohydroxamic acid, methylnitrosourea, benzo[a]pyrene and aflatoxin B1 in S. typhimurium and the tRNA binding by benzo[a]pyrene and aflatoxin B1 were investigated. Acetylacetone, benzoylacetone and dibenzoylmethane inhibited the mutagenicity of 2-naphthohydroxamic acid, and dibenzoylmethane and 1,3-indandione inhibited that of methylnitrosourea, benzo[a]pyrene and aflatoxin B1. The binding to tRNA of benzo[a]pyrene and aflatoxin B1 was inhibited by benzoylacetone and dibenzoylmethane, and dibenzoylmethane, 1,3-indandione and 1,1,1-trifluoroacetylacetone, respectively. The inhibition of methylnitrosourea mutagenicity was observed when the bacteria were exposed concomitantly to the inhibitors and the mutagen, but not when they were exposed to the inhibitors 1 h after exposure to the mutagen. These results demonstrate that active methylene compounds can inhibit mutagenicity and nucleic acid-binding of chemical carcinogens presumably by trapping carcinogenic electrophiles, and they are potential anti-carcinogenic agents during the initiation stage.