Using the Salmonella/microsome assay system, the mutagenicity of chewing tobacco extracts (CTE) treated with and without sodium nitrite under acidic conditions was examined. Mutagenic activity was found only for nitrite-treated CTE in both tester strains, TA98 and TA100, and was independent of metabolic activation. Formation of mutagenic substances from CTE by nitrite was dependent on acidic pHs (the highest at pH 2) and could be inhibited by ascorbate. The mutagenic potency of CTE plus nitrite was proportional to the content of nitroso compounds generated in the reaction mixture, indicating that the nitrosation process was involved. The possible in vivo nitrosation and the potential health effect are discussed.