The carcinogenicity of estrogens in rodents and man has been attributed to either alkylation of cellular macromolecules and/or redox-cycling, generation of active radicals and DNA damage. Metabolic activation of estradiol leading to the formation of catechol estrogens is believed to be a prerequisite for its genotoxic effects. 4-Hydroxyestradiol is a potent inducer of tumors in hamsters. Previous studies have shown that 3,4-estrone quinone (3,4-EQ) can redox-cycle and is capable of inducing exclusively single strand DNA breaks in MCF-7 breast cancer cells, as well as react with various nucleophiles including amino acids and nucleic acids to give Michael addition products. In this paper we examined the nature of the interaction of 3,4-EQ with COIII gene and analysed the estrogen-DNA adducts by 32P-post-labeling. The reaction of 3,4-EQ with the COIII gene followed by polymerase arrest assay showed several stop sites in which guanine was preferentially attacked by 3,4-EQ and, to a lesser extent, with Ade, Cyt and Thy. 32P-Post-labeling analysis of the reaction of 3,4-EQ with COIII gene gave one major adduct which was found to be identical to that obtained from reaction of dGMP with 3,4-EQ. The observation that obstruction of in vitro replication of COIII template bound to 3,4-EQ suggests that estrogen quinone adducted lesions can arrest DNA polymerase. These results indicate that 3,4-EQ may be genotoxic and may provide one possible explanation for the carcinogenic effects of estrogens.