Cigarette-smoke condensate (CSC) is a complex mixture containing over 3800 identified chemicals including nicotine, water, mutagens, antimutagens, cytotoxins and inert chemicals. Although CSC is mutagenic in the Ames test, its effect on the activity of other mutagens has not been characterized. Using the Ames Salmonella bacterial mutagenesis assay, we found CSC exerts a significant inhibitory effect on mutagens requiring bioactivation. Those studied included heterocyclic amines (Glu-P-1, Glu-P-2, IQ, MeIQ, Trp-P-1 and Trp-P-2), benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) and aflatoxin B1. However, CSC had no effect on the activity of direct-acting mutagens (2-nitrofluorene, sodium azide, 4-nitro-1,2-phenylenediamine, 4-nitroquinoline N-oxide and methyl methanesulfonate). With indirect-acting mutagens, the reduced number of revertants observed in the presence of CSC was not attributable to cytotoxicity. CSC exhibited a potent inhibitory effect on the cytochrome P-450 dependent monooxygenases, ethoxyresorufin O-deethylase and B[a]P hydroxylase. This suggests inhibition of the cytochrome P-450 isozymes as one possible mechanism for the antimutagenicity of CSC. Fractionation studies of CSC revealed that the neutral, weakly acidic (phenolic) and basic fractions are all effective as antimutagens against Glu-P-1, a representative heterocyclic amine. This indicates that several classes of chemicals contribute to the inhibitory effect of CSC on the mutagenicity of the heterocyclic amines.