The tobacco specific nitrosamines (TSNA) N'-nitrosonornicotine (NNN) and 4-(Methylnitrosoamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) were tested for mutagenic and clastogenic effects using a battery of short-term test systems. These test systems include the Ames test, micronucleus test (MNT), induction of chromosomal aberrations and sister chromatid exchange (SCEs). NNN and NNK were tested for their potency in inducing mutations in the Ames Salmonella/microsome assay and their clastogenic action were tested by the micronucleus inducing ability in vivo using Swiss mice. Studies on the induction of chromosomal aberrations and SCE exchange were carried out using human peripheral blood lymphocyte cultures. In the Ames test and MNT, NNN was positive but in comparisons with NNK, NNK was a more potent mutagen. Present studies clearly proves the genotoxic potential of both NNN and NNK and between the two NNK is more potent.