From epidemiological studies, there is some evidence that genetic variation at the glutathione S-transferase (CST) loci GSTM1 influences individual susceptibility to disease associated with oxidative stress. The aim of this study was to elucidate the role of the GSTM1 genotype in protection against oxidant chemicals by comparing the sensitivity, genotoxicity and cytotoxicity of lymphocytes to benzo(a)pyrene (BaP)- and cumene hydroperoxide (CumOOH)-induced in vitro oxidative challenge. Malondialdehyde and protein carbonyl levels, and oxidation of 2',7'-dichlorofluorescin diacetate were used as biomarkers of oxidative stress in lymphocytes. Following supplementation with BaP or CumOOH, time-dependent increases were observed in the production of all the markers after incubation for 12-48 h. However, we could not find any differences between GSTM1 null and positive genotypes. Furthermore, dose or time response experiments indicated that GSTM1-deficient cells were not more sensitive than control cells to BaP-or CumOOH-induced cell killing and micronucleus formation, although they were hypersensitive to BaP-inhibited cellular growth. The results suggest that lymphocytes from individuals with the GSTM1 null genotype are not abnormally susceptible to in vitro induced oxidant challenge, when exposed to CumOOH. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.