The available data support the concept that high-fat diets increase cytochrome P-450 activities in the liver, leading to increased rates of carcinogen metabolism and in some instances, DNA adduct formation. Therefore we investigated whether a high-fat diet can also influence DNA methylation by the tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1- butanone (NNK) in the lungs of rats. Male F344 rats were fed a regular AIN- 76A low-fat (5% corn oil) or AIN-76A high-fat (23.5% corn oil) diet. After three weeks on this dietary regimen, the animals were injected subcutaneously once daily for four days with NNK at 0.39 mmol/kg body wt. Groups of rats were sacrificed 4 and 24 hours after the last NNK administration; livers and lungs were excised for DNA isolation. We found that the high-fat diet significantly enhanced the formation of O6- methylguanine (O6-mGua) in the rat lung four hours (p < 0.01) after the last carcinogen administration. This may, in part, account for our previous finding in regard to the enhancing effect of the high-fat diet on NNK- induced lung carcinogenesis. There was no effect on O6-mGua or 7-mGua in the rat liver at either time point. To further elucidate the enhancing effect of the high-fat diet on DNA methylation by NNK in the lung, we determined its effect on the in vitro and in vivo metabolism of NNK. The in vitro data indicated that dietary fat has no measurable effect on liver and lung microsomal mixed-function oxidase in catalyzing the metabolic activation of NNK. The results of the metabolism study of NNK in vivo appear to be consistent with the in vitro finding, in that fat had no effect on the excretion pattern of NNK or on the distribution pattern of its urinary metabolites. It is apparent that the enhancing effect of the high-fat diet on O6-mGua in the lung of rats that was measured four hours after NNK injection requires future investigations.