Congenic Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2 Syrian hamster lines were constructed by introducing the NAT2r gene from MHA/SsLak inbred hamsters into a background BIO 1.5 Syrian inbred hamster line. Genetic identity of the Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2 congenic lines and nonidentity with the previously constructed Bio. 82.73/H-Pat congenic lines were determined by "DNA fingerprints" of genomic DNA derived from the different hamster lines. The N-acetylation capacity of the Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2 congenic hamster lines was clearly NAT2-dependent both in vivo and in vitro, with highest levels expressed in Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2r homozygous rapid acetylators, intermediate levels in Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2r/NAT2s heterozygous acetylators, and lowest levels in Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2s homozygous slow acetylators. The NAT2-dependent expression of N-acetyltransferase activity was evident toward p-aminobenzoic acid, 4-aminophenol, 2-aminofluorene, 4-aminobiphenyl, beta-naphthylamine, and 3,2'-dimethyl-4-amino-biphenyl in liver, kidney, colon, lung, and urinary bladder cytosols. The polymorphic acetyltransferase (NAT2) and the monomorphic acetyltransferase (NAT1) were isolated from hepatic cytosols and tested separately for their ability to catalyze arylamine N-acetyltransferase and N-hydroxyarylamine O-acetyltransferase activities. Both arylamine N-acetylation and N-hydroxyarylamine O-acetylation were clearly acetylator genotype-dependent when catalyzed by NAT2, and both were clearly acetylator genotype-independent when catalyzed by NAT1. NAT2/NAT1 activity ratios varied with the particular arylamine substrate acetylated. These studies show an important role for NAT2 acetylator genotype in Syrian hamster carcinogenic arylamine metabolism and confirm its role in the metabolic activation of N-hydroxyarylamines. The Bio. 1.5/H-NAT2 congenic lines provide a new model for investigating the precise role of the NAT2 gene locus in arylamine metabolism and toxicity.