Tobacco smoke is a complex chemical mixture including pyridine alkaloids and N-nitrosamines, with the concentration of the former several orders of magnitude higher that that of the N-nitrosamines. The major biologically important N-nitrosamines present in tobacco smoke are N-nitrosodimethylamine (NDMA), 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and N(1)-nitrosonornicotine (NNN). These nitrosamines require metabolic activations by cytochrome P-450s for the expression of mutagenicity. Although nicotine, the major pyridine alkaloid in tobacco, has been shown to inhibit the metabolic activation of NNK, its effect on the mutagenicity of NNK and other N-nitrosamines has not been reported, In the present study, the ability of three pyridine alkaloids (nicotine, cotinine, nornicotine) and aqueous cigarette smoke condensate extract (ACE) to inhibit the mutagenicity of tobacco-related N-nitrosamines was tested on Salmonella typhimurium strain TA1535 in the presence of a metabolic activation system (S9). All three of the pyridine alkaloids tested, as well as ACE, inhibited the mutagenicity of NDMA and NNK, but not NNN, in a concentration-dependent manner. The induction of SCEs in mammalian cells (CHO) by NNK in the presence of metabolic activation was also significantly reduced by nicotine and cotinine. None of the observed reductions in mutagenicity could be explained by cytotoxicity. These results demonstrate that tobacco smoke contains chemicals, pyridine alkaloids and other unidentified constituent(s), which inhibit the mutagenicity of N-nitrosamines.