Aryl hydrocarbon hydroxylase-1 (AHH-1) cells are a human lymphoblastoid cell line competent in some aspects of xenobiotic metabolism. This cell line contains stable mixed function oxidase activity which is inducible by polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAHs) but not by phenobarbital or Arochlor 1254. Two substrates for the cellular mixed function oxidase activity, benzo[a]pyrene (B[a]P) and 7-ethoxyresorufin, have been examined. The basal and induced activities have different kinetic parameters toward these two substrates. In contrast, basal and induced activities had similar sensitivities to two cytochrome P-450 suicide substrates. B[a]P metabolism and mutagenicity were studied in this cell line. AHH-1 cells were found to produce predominantly B[a]P phenols and quinones. The major phenol metabolite cochromatographed with authentic 9-hydroxy B[a]P. AHH-1 cells were capable of forming glucuronic acid conjugates of B[a]P phenols; the major product after hydrolysis cochromatographed with 3-hydroxy B[a]P standard. AHH-1 cells did not contain detectable epoxide hydrolase activity using B[a]P-4,5-oxide as substrate. This observation is consistent with the absence of trans-dihydrodiol B[a]P metabolites in the metabolic profile. B[a]P-induced mutagenicity at the hypoxanthine guanine phosphoribosyl transferase (hgprt) locus in AHH-1 cells was found to be linearly related to phenol production during treatment and inhibited by alpha-naphthoflavone (ANF).