In order to study neutrophil-mediated formation of carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds as a mechanism of inflammation-related colon carcinogenesis, we designed an in vitro model for intestinal inflammation, consisting of a coincubation system with human colon cells (Caco-2 cells) and activated human neutrophils (PMN), as important immunoreactive cells. We investigated whether nitrosamines and nitrosamides could be formed upon addition of dimethylamine, morpholine and methylurea to the coincubations as nitrosatable precursors, which are known to produce carcinogenic N-nitroso compounds. Incubations of pure nitric oxide with dimethylamine and morpholine showed that NO-mediated formation of nitrosodimethylamine and nitrosomorpholine is possible under the incubation conditions. During the coincubations of activated PMN and Caco-2 cells, 0.34nmol nitrite/10(6) PMN was produced. Dose-dependent formation of NMOR was observed in this PMN/Caco-2 system; addition of 5mM morpholine resulted in a significantly increased NMOR formation of 4.2nM. However, no detectable NDMA and methylnitrosourea were formed in this coincubation system. These results suggest that activated human neutrophils are able to synthesize carcinogenic N-nitrosamines, e.g. NMOR, which implies a risk of colon carcinogenesis during chronic inflammation. However, the observed relatively low level of nitrosation suggests that also other risk factors are contributing to the association between chronic inflammation and colon cancer risk.