The tobacco-specific nitrosamine 4-(methylnitrosamino)-l-(3-pyridyl)1-butanone (NNK) is a potent carcinogen in adult laboratory rodents. Our previous studies have shown that NNK crosses the placenta in pregnant hamsters and is metabolized into DNA-methylating and clastogenic intermediates by fetal respiratory tract tissues. Based on these findings, we have tested the transplacental carcinogenicity of NNK in this species. Groups of pregnant hamsters were given s.c. injections of single or multiple doses of NNK (cumulative dose range, 50-300 mg/kg) on day 15 (last day of gestation) or on days 13, 14, and 15 of gestation. Within 1 year after treatment, up to 70% of the offspring developed tumors in various organs, including respiratory tract, nasal cavity, adrenal glands, pancreas, and liver. No tumors were found in the control hamsters treated with the vehicle (trioctanoin) alone. The overall tumor incidence was proportional to the cumulative dose. Females had a generally higher tumor incidence than males.