The effect of age and peroxidative stress on the concentration of a deoxyguanosine malondialdehyde adduct (dG-MDA) in rat tissues was investigated. Vitamin E deficiency had no effect on the dG-MDA content of liver DNA in rats fed a diet containing 10% corn oil. When 2% cod liver oil was added to this diet, the dG-MDA content of liver DNA doubled in the positive controls fed a high level of vitamin E (100 ppm dl-alpha-tocopherol), and there was a further increase when vitamin E was deleted. Neither iron nitrilotriacetate administration nor choline deficiency had any effect on the dG-MDA content of liver DNA. Carbon tetrachloride had a lowering effect. The failure of iron or carbon tetrachloride administration and of vitamin E deficiency to increase liver dG-MDA is consistent with their failure in previous experiments to affect the urinary excretion of dG-MDA. In contrast, these forms of peroxidative stress produce large increments in the urinary excretion of MDA adducts with lysine, reflecting increased formation and degradation of MDA-modified proteins. DNA appears to be protected from modification by MDA produced at extranuclear sites. The frequency of dG-MDA in different tissues of 4-month-old rats varied markedly: brain >> liver > kidneys and testes. Higher concentrations of dG-MDA were found in the liver and kidneys, but not the testes, of 25-month-old rats. The determinants of the concentration of dG-MDA in DNA merit further investigation.