Previous studies have identified allelic variants of the human glutathione transferase (GST) Pi gene and showed that the two different encoded proteins with isoleucine (GSTP1-1/I-105) or valine (GSTP1-1/V-105) at position 105, respectively, differ significantly in their catalytic activities with model substrates. Moreover, recent epidemiological studies have demonstrated that individuals differing in the expression of these allelic variants also differ in susceptibility to tumour formation in certain organs, including such in which polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH) may be etiological factors. In the present study the catalytic efficiencies (kcat/Km) of these GSTP1-1 variants were determined with a number of stereoisomeric bay-region diol epoxides, known as the ultimate mutagenic and carcinogenic metabolites of PAH, including those from chrysene, benzo[a]pyrene and dibenz[a,h]anthracene. In addition, GSTP1-1 mutants in which amino residue 105 is alanine (GSTP1-1/A-105) or tryptophan (GSTP1-1/W-105) have been constructed and characterized. GSTP1-1/V-105 was found to be more active than GSTP1-1/I-105 in conjugation reactions with the bulky diol epoxides of PAH, being up to 3-fold as active towards the anti- and syn-diol epoxide enantiomers with R-absolute configuration at the benzylic oxiranyl carbon. Comparing the four enzyme variants, GSTP1-1/A-105 generally demonstrated the highest kcat/Km value and GSTP1-1/W-105 the lowest with the anti-diol epoxides. A close correlation was observed between the volume occupied by the amino acid residue at position 105 and the value of kcat/Km. With the syn-diol epoxides, such a correlation was observed with alanine, valine and isoleucine, whereas tryptophan was associated with increased kcat/Km values. The mutational replacement of isoleucine with alanine or tryptophan at position 105 did not alter the enantio selectivity of the GSTP1-1 variants compared with the naturally occurring allelic variants GSTP1-1/I-105 and GSTP1-1/V-105. Since the amino acid at position 105 forms part of the substrate binding site (H-site) the effect of increasing bulkiness is expected to cause restricted access of the diol epoxide and proper alignment of the two reactants for efficient glutathionylation. In conclusion, the present study indicates that individuals who are homozygous for the allele GSTP1* B (coding for GSTP1-1/V-105) display a higher susceptibility to malignancy because of other factors than a decreased catalytic efficiency of GSTP1-1/V-105 in the detoxication of carcinogenic diol epoxides of benzo[a]pyrene or structurally related PAH.