Persistent inflammation and associated excessive oxidative stress have been crucially implicated in quartz-induced pulmonary diseases, including fibrosis and cancer. We have investigated the significance of the particle surface reactivity of respirable quartz dust in relation to the in vivo generation of reactive oxygen and nitrogen species (ROS/RNS) and the associated induction of oxidative stress responses in the lung. Therefore, rats were intratracheally instilled with 2 mg quartz (DQ12) or quartz whose surface was modified by either polyvinylpyridine-N-oxide (PVNO) or aluminium lactate (AL). Seven days after instillation, the bronchoalveolar lavage fluid (BALF) was analysed for markers of inflammation (total/differential cell counts), levels of pulmonary oxidants (H2O2, nitrite), antioxidant status (trolox equivalent antioxidant capacity), as well as for markers of lung tissue damage, e.g. total protein, lactate dehydrogenase and alkaline phosphatase. Lung homogenates as well as sections were investigated regarding the induction of the oxidative DNA-lesion/oxidative stress marker 8-hydroxy-2'-deoxyguanosine (8-OHdG) using HPLC/ECD analysis and immunohistochemistry, respectively. Homogenates and sections were also investigated for the expression of the bifunctional apurinic/apyrimidinic endonuclease/redox factor-1 (APE/Ref-1) by Western blotting and immunohistochemistry. Significantly increased levels of H2O2 and nitrite were observed in rats treated with non-coated quartz, when compared to rats that were treated with either saline or the surface-modified quartz preparations. In the BALF, there was a strong correlation between the number of macrophages and ROS, as well as total cells and RNS. Although enhanced oxidant generation in non-coated DQ12-treated rats was paralleled with an increased total antioxidant capacity in the BALF, these animals also showed significantly enhanced lung tissue damage. Remarkably however, elevated ROS levels were not associated with an increase in 8-OHdG, whereas the lung tissue expression of APE/Ref-1 protein was clearly up-regulated. The present data provide further in vivo evidence for the crucial role of particle surface properties in quartz dust-induced ROS/RNS generation by recruited inflammatory phagocytes. Our results also demonstrate that quartz dust can fail to show steady-state enhanced oxidative DNA damage in the respiratory tract, in conditions were it elicits a marked and persistent inflammation with associated generation of ROS/RNS, and indicate that this may relate to compensatory induction of APE/Ref-1 mediated base excision repair.