The chromosomal aberration test using a Chinese hamster lung cell line (CHL) was carried out on 1-nitropyrene (NP), 3 dinitropyrenes (DNPs), fluorene and 4 mononitrofluorenes with and without metabolic activation (rat S9 mix). The 3 DNPs (1,3-, 1,6- and 1,8-DNP) induced chromosomal aberrations in the absence of S9 mix. The frequencies of cells with aberrations after treatment for 48 h were 43% at 2 micrograms/ml of 1,3-DNP, 55% at 0.1 microgram/ml of 1,6-DNP and 45% at 0.025 microgram/ml of 1,8-DNP, indicating the order of clastogenic potency as 1,8- greater than 1,6- greater than 1,3-DNP. On the other hand, 1-NP, which is known to be a direct-acting mutagen in bacteria, was negative in the chromosomal aberration test without S9 mix, but clearly positive with S9 mix. This effect was dependent on the concentration of the S9 fraction in the reaction mixture. High-pressure liquid chromatography analysis showed that 1-NP was converted by S9 mix to several metabolites, including 1-aminopyrene (AP). The clastogenic activity of 1-AP, however, was equivocal without S9 mix, suggesting that active clastogens other than 1-AP exist. Fluorene induced chromosomal aberrations only in the presence of S9 mix (61.8% at 25 micrograms/ml). 1-, 2-, 3- and 4-nitrofluorene (NF) were more clastogenic in the presence of S9 mix than in the absence of S9 mix, suggesting that NFs were converted to more active clastogens by S9 mix.