The mutagenicity of a prominent tobacco carcinogen, benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P), is believed to result from chemical reactions between its diol epoxide metabolite, (+)-anti-7r,8t-dihydroxy-c9,10-epoxy-7,8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo[a]pyrene (BPDE), and DNA, producing promutagenic lesions, e.g., (+)-trans-anti-7R,8S,9S-trihydroxy-10S-(N2-deoxyguanosyl)-7, 8,9,10-tetrahydrobenzo[a]pyrene (N2-BPDE-dG). Previous studies used the DNA repair enzyme UvrABC endonuclease in combination with ligation-mediated PCR (LMPCR) to demonstrate an increased reactivity of BPDE toward guanine nucleobases within codons 157, 248, and 273 of the p53 tumor suppressor gene (Denissenko, M. F., Pao, A., Tang, M., and Pfeifer, G. P. Science 274, 430-432). These sites are also "hot spots" for mutations observed in lung tumors of smokers, suggesting an involvement of B[a]P in the initiation of lung cancer. However, the LMPCR approach relies on the ability of the repair enzyme to excise BPDE-induced lesions, and thus the slowly repaired lesions may escape detection. Furthermore, BPDE-DNA adduct structure and stereochemistry cannot be determined. In the present work, we performed a direct quantitative analysis of N2-BPDE-dG originating from specific guanine nucleobases within p53- and K-ras-derived DNA sequences by using a stable isotope labeling-mass spectrometry approach recently developed in our laboratory. 15N-labeled dG was placed at defined positions within DNA sequences derived from the K-ras proto-oncogene and p53 tumor suppressor gene, the two genes most frequently mutated in smoking-induced lung cancer. 15N-labeled DNA was annealed to the complementary strands, followed by BPDE treatment and liquid chromatography-electrospray ionization tandem mass spectrometry analysis (HPLC-ESI-MS/MS) of N2-BPDE-dG lesions. The extent of adduct formation at 15N-labeled guanine was determined directly from the HPLC-ESI-MS/MS peak area ratios of 15N-N2-BPDE-dG and N2-BPDE-dG. BPDE-induced guanine adducts were produced nonrandomly along K-ras and p53 gene-derived DNA sequences, with over 5-fold differences in adduct formation depending on sequence context. N2-BPDE-dG yield was enhanced by the presence of 5-Me substituent at the cytosine base-paired with the target guanine nucleobase, an endogenous DNA modification characteristic for CpG dinucleotides within the p53 gene. In the K-ras-derived DNA sequence, the majority of N2-BPDE-dG adducts originated from the first position of the codon 12 (GGT), consistent with the large number of G → T transversions observed at this nucleotide in smoking-induced lung cancer. On the contrary, the pattern of N2-BPDE-dG formation within the p53 exon 5 sequences did not correlate with the mutational spectrum in lung cancer, suggesting that factors other than N2-BPDE- dG formation are responsible for these mutations. The stable isotope labeling HPLC-ESI-MS/MS approach described in this work is universally applicable to studies of modifications to isolated DNA by other carcinogens and alkylating drugs.