Peroxynitrite is a strong oxidant formed by reaction of nitric oxide with superoxide in inflamed tissues. We have demonstrated that 8-nitroguanine is formed dose-dependently in calf thymus DNA incubated with low concentrations of peroxynitrite in vitro. 8-Nitroguanine in acid-hydrolyzed DNA was chemically reduced into 8-aminoguanine, which was analyzed using high performance liquid chromatography with electrochemical detection. Only peroxynitrite, but not nitrite, tetranitromethane nor NO-releasing compounds, formed 8-nitroguanine. Antioxidants and desferrioxamine inhibited the reaction. 8-Nitroguanine was depurinated from DNA incubated at pH 7.4, 37 degrees C (t1/2 = approximately 4 h). Peroxynitrite did not increase 8-oxoguanine levels in DNA.