Bovine leukemia virus-transformed lamb embryo fibroblasts (line FLK) possess activity of DT-diaphorase of ca. 260 U/mg protein and similar levels of other NADP(H)-oxidizing enzymes: NADH:oxidase, 359 U/mg; NADPH:oxidase, 43 U/mg; NADH:cytochrome-c reductase, 141 U/mg; NADPH:cytochrome-c reductase, 43 U/mg. In general, the toxicity of aromatic nitrocompounds towards FLK cells increases on increase of single-electron reduction potentials (E1(1)) of nitrocompounds or the log of their reduction rate constants by single-electron-transferring enzymes, microsomal NADPH:cytochrome P-450 reductase (EC 184.108.40.206) and mitochondrial NADH:ubiquinone reductase (EC 220.127.116.11). No correlation between the toxicity and reduction rate of nitrocompounds by rat liver DT-diaphorase (EC 18.104.22.168) was observed. The toxicity is not significantly affected by dicumarol, an inhibitor of DT-diaphorase. Nitrocompounds examined were poor substrates for DT-diaphorase, being 10(4) times less active than menadione. Their poor reactivity is most probably determined by their preferential binding to a NADPH binding site, but not to menadione binding site of diaphorase. These data indicate that at comparable activities of DT-diaphorase and single-electron-transferring NAD(P)H dehydrogenases in the cell, the toxicity of nitrocompounds will be determined mainly by their single-electron reduction reactions.