Combustion of biomass and wood for residential heating and/or cooking contributes substantially to both ambient air and indoor levels of particulate matter (PM). Toxicological characterization of ambient air PM, especially related to traffic, is well advanced, whereas the toxicology of wood smoke PM (WSPM) is poorly assessed. We assessed a wide spectrum of toxicity end points in human A549 lung epithelial and THP-1 monocytic cell lines comparing WSPM from high or low oxygen combustion and ambient PM collected in a village with many operating wood stoves and from a rural background area. In both cell types, all extensively characterized PM samples (1.25-100 mu g/mL) induced dose-dependent formation of reactive oxygen species and DNA damage in terms of strand breaks and formamidopyrimidine DNA glycosylase sites assessed by the comet assay with WSPM being most potent. The WSPM contained more polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons (PAH), less soluble metals, and expectedly also had a smaller particle size than PM collected from ambient air. All four types of PM combined increased the levels of 8-oxo-7,8-dihydro-2'-deoxyguanosine dose-dependently in A549 cells, whereas there was no change in the levels of etheno-adducts or bulky DNA adducts. Furthermore, mRNA expression of the proinflammatory genes monocyte chemoattractant protein-1, interleukin-8, and tumor necrosis factor-alpha as well as the oxidative stress gene heme oxygenase-1 was upregulated in the THP-1 cells especially by WSPM and ambient PM sampled from the wood stove area. Expression of oxoguanine glycosylase 1, lymphocyte function-associated antigen-1, and interleukin-6 did not change. We conclude that WSPM has small particle size, high level of PAR, low level of water-soluble metals, and produces high levels of free radicals, DNA damage as well as inflammatory and oxidative stress response gene expression in cultured human cells.