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Oxidative stress and DNA damage caused by the urban air pollutant 3-NBA and its isomer 2-NBA in human lung cells analyzed with three independent methods.The air pollutant 3-nitrobenzanthrone (3-NBA), emitted in diesel exhaust, is a potent mutagen and genotoxin. 3-NBA can isomerise to 2-nitrobenzanthrone (2-NBA), which can become more than 70-fold higher in concentration in ambient air. In this study, three independent methods have been employed to evaluate the oxidative stress and genotoxicity of 2-NBA compared to 3-NBA in the human A549 lung cell line. HPLC-EC/UV was applied for measurements of oxidative damage in the form of 8-oxo-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-oxodG), (32)P-HPLC for measurements of lipophilic DNA-adducts, and the Comet assay to measure a variety of DNA lesions, including oxidative stress. No significant oxidative damage from either isomer was found regarding formation of 8-oxodG analysed using HPLC-EC/UV. However, the Comet assay (with FPG-treatment), which is more sensitive and detects more types of damages compared to HPLC-EC/UV, showed a significant effect from both 3-NBA and 2-NBA. (32)P-HPLC revealed a strong DNA-adduct formation from both 3-NBA and 2-NBA, and also a significant difference between both isomers compared to negative control. These results clearly show that 2-NBA has a genotoxic potential. Even if the DNA-adduct forming capacity and the amount of DNA lesions measured with the (32)P-HPLC and Comet assay is about one third of 3-NBA, the high abundance of 2-NBA in ambient air calls for further investigation and evaluation of its health hazard.