4-Hydroxy-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (HPB) is a metabolite of the tobacco specific nitrosamines, 4-(methylnitrosamino)-1-(3-pyridyl)-1-butanone (NNK) and N′-nitrosonornicotine (NNN). HPB is also a breakdown product of covalently bound pyridyloxobutyl adducts resulting from NNK and NNN exposure. HPB released from DNA or hemoglobin has been used as an important dosimeter of tobacco specific nitrosamine exposure in a variety of studies. This compound is not reactive with cellular nucleophiles under biological conditions. We have discovered that HPB reacts with nucleophiles under acidic conditions to form cyclic tetrahydrofuranyl reaction products. Dithiothreitol, 2-mercaptoethanol, and N-acetylcysteine all reacted with HPB under these reaction conditions. In addition, reactions were observed with buffer chemicals such as 4-(2-hydroxyethyl)-1-piperazineethanesulfonic acid and tris(hydroxymethyl)aminomethane. The resulting cyclic adducts were unstable at room temperature. Their half-lives were significantly longer under neutral conditions than under acidic conditions. NMR studies established that the cyclic form of HPB, 2-hydroxy-2-(3-pyridyl)-2,3,4,5-THF, is present at significant concentrations in acidic solutions. The observation of this cyclic compound suggests that the reaction with nucleophiles may occur via a cyclic oxonium ion intermediate. This reaction was significant in our biological samples; there was up to 40% conversion of [5-3H]HPB to cyclic DTT-derived compounds when acidic DNA repair reactions containing [5-3H]pyridyloxobutylated DNA were stored overnight at -20 °C. Therefore, long-term storage of acid hydrolysates of pyridyloxobutylated DNA or protein for the analysis of HPB-releasing adducts could result in an underestimation of HPB-releasing adduct in those samples. In addition, these observations provide a mild synthetic method to prepare large quantities of cyclic 2-(3-pyridyl)-2,3,4,5-THF adducts predicted to result from pyridyloxobutylation of important cellular nucleophiles as a result of NNK and/or NNN exposure.