Certain polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, ubiquitous environmental pollutants, destroy oocytes. Oocyte destruction by polycyclic hydrocarbons requires distribution of the parent hydrocarbon to the ovary where ovarian enzymes metabolize the compound to reactive intermediates responsible for ovotoxicity. Descriptive assays of polycyclic hydrocarbon metabolic activation such as the aryl hydrocarbon (benzo(a)pyrene) hydroxylase assay (AHH) are not good predictors of strain or species differences in sensitivity to polycyclic hydrocarbon ovotoxicity. Using benzo(a)pyrene as a probe of ovarian metabolic processing suggests that the rate of formation of metabolites along the metabolic pathway to the 7,8-dihydrodiol-9,10-epoxide may be the appropriate measure of the role of metabolic activation in strain or species differences in sensitivity to oocyte destruction. The multistep metabolic pathway involved in ovarian metabolic processing of benzo(a)pyrene may represent a useful model for exploring the roles of metabolic activation, detoxification, intrinsic sensitivity, and repair in reproductive toxicity.