The transforming activities of four polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons and six of their nitro-derivatives were studied using BALB/3T3 clone A31-1-1 cells in the absence of exogenous metabolic activation. Each compound was assayed two to four times to its maximal level of solubility. A transformation response was induced by 1-nitropyrene, 2-nitropyrene, 4-nitropyrene and benzo[a]pyrene in the BALB/3T3 mouse embryo cells. Pyrene and 7-nitrobenz[a]anthracene produced questionable responses, and benz[a]anthracene, chrysene, 6-nitrobenzo[a]pyrene and 6-nitrochrysene produced negative responses. The capacity of the assay system to indicate tumorigenicity of the test compounds is discussed.