Oxidants are suspected to represent important human carcinogens. They are mutagenic and may participate in the activation of proto-oncogenes and the inactivation of tumor suppressor genes. We have studied the capacity of hydrogen peroxide plus ferric chloride (FeCl3) to induce base pair changes in the hotspot codons 248 and 249 of the p53 tumor suppressor gene in human fibroblasts. In codon 248 (CGG) H2O2/FeCl3 only induced the transversion of G to C in the second position and the transition of G to A in the third position. No evidence was obtained for spontaneous or oxidant-induced deamination of 5-methylcytosine in the CpG dinucleotide of codon 248 since neither C to T transitions in the first position nor G to A transitions in the middle position were observed. H2O2/FeCl3 efficiently induced G to T transversions at both G-residues of codon 249 (AGG) and C to A transversions at the first position of codon 250 (CCC). It is evident that H2O2/FeCl3 possesses essentially the same mutagenic specificity for codons 249 and 250 of p53 as bulky carcinogens such as aflatoxin B1, benzo(a)pyrene or heterocyclic amines. In particular, it is not possible to eliminate oxidants from the list of candidate carcinogens which may be responsible for the high incidence of p53 codon 249 AGT mutations in hepatocellular carcinoma from certain areas of the world.