N-Acetoxyarylamines are reactive metabolites that are implicated in the initiation of the carcinogenic process by some N-substituted aryl compounds. The objective of this study was to explore the relationship between the production of these reactive species and N-acetylation (NAT), a reaction previously demonstrated to be polymorphic in the human. Human liver and urinary bladder mucosa samples were frozen within 4-8 h post mortem. These tissues were assayed for the (i) O-acetylation (OAT) of N-hydroxy-3,2'-dimethyl-4-aminobiphenyl (N-OH-DMABP) by acetyl CoA, (ii) intramolecular N,O-acetyltransfer (AHAT) of N-hydroxy-2-acetylaminofluorene (N-OH-AAF), (iii) NAT of 2-aminofluorene (2-AF) and p-aminobenzoic acid (PABA) by acetyl CoA and (iv) deacetylation of N-OH-AAF. Cytosolic AHAT and OAT showed partial inhibition by paraoxon. The ratio of paraoxon insensitive AHAT to OAT to NAT of PABA to NAT of 2-AF appears to be 1:2:11:22 using freshly made cytosols from frozen livers. Freezing of the cytosol resulted in extensive loss of activities. All four of these cytosolic enzyme activities exhibited a similar polymorphic response. Microsomal deacetylation showed a monomorphic response. Similar to the liver, urinary bladder epithelial cells also catalyzed the same reactions. However, the OAT and AHAT activities were detected mainly in microsomes. These data suggest that phenotypically rapid acetylators have a greater biochemical potential for the metabolic activation of aromatic amines by pathways that involve O-acetylation.