The metabolism of chemical carcinogens was investigated in liver preparations from 28 captive woodchucks (Marmota monax). Of these, 23 were naturally infected with the woodchuck hepatitis virus (WHV), and eight also had primary hepatocellular carcinoma (PHC). Twenty-nine parameters were investigated in liver subcellular fractions, including cross-reactivity with HBsAg, and biochemical parameters, such as gamma-glutamyl transpeptidase, cytochrome P-450 and microsomal monooxygenases (aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase, ethoxycoumarin and ethoxyresorufin deethylases, aminopyrine and dimethylnitrosamine demethylases, and testosterone 7 alpha-, 16 alpha- and 6 beta-hydroxylases), uridine 5'-diphosphoglucuronosyl transferase, GSH and related enzymes (peroxidase, reductase and S-transferase), as well as other cytosolic enzyme activities (glucose 6-phosphate and 6-phosphogluconate dehydrogenases, NADPH- and NADH-dependent diaphorases, and DT diaphorase). In addition, liver preparations were used in order to quantify the metabolic activation into bacterial mutagens of five procarcinogens (aflatoxin B1, the pyrolysis products Trp-P-2 and MeIQ, 2-aminofluorene and dimethylnitrosamine) and the decrease of potency of three direct-acting mutagens (sodium dichromate, ICR 191 and 4-nitroquinoline 1-oxide). WHV infection produced a significant stimulation of carcinogen metabolism, as shown by the simultaneous change in detoxification parameters (GSH depletion) and activation indices (enhancement of microsomal monooxygenases and of procarcinogen activation into mutagenic metabolites). There were no significant differences between WHV-positive samples from animals without PHC and the noncancerous tissue of PHC-bearing animals, whereas a decrease of both activation and detoxification indices was recorded in the tumorous tissue. There was a considerable interindividual variability among WHV carriers, which was tentatively ascribed to genetic factors. Pregnancy was the only known factor influencing the results in WHV carriers. However, even by excluding pregnant animals, the effects on carcinogen metabolism produced by WHV infection were still statistically significant. These results, together with previous data obtained in humans, revealed that metabolic factors may play a role in the synergism between viral hepatitis and chemical hepatocarcinogens in the etiopathogenesis of PHC.