The benzylic alcohols 1- and 2-hydroxy-3-methylcholanthrene (OH-MC) are major primary metabolites of the carcinogen 3-methylcholanthrene (MC). We investigated them for mutagenicity in TA1538-derived Salmonella typhimurium strains expressing mammalian sulphotransferases (SULTs). 1-OH-MC was efficiently activated by human (h) SULT1B1 (2400 revertants/nmol), weakly activated by hSULT1C3 and hSULT2A1 (2–9 revertants/nmol), but not activated by the other hSULTs studied (1A2, 1A3, 1C2 and 1E1). Mouse, rat and dog SULT1B1 activated 1-OH-MC (8–100 revertants/nmol) with much lower efficiency than their human orthologue. The other isomer, 2-OH-MC, was activated to a potent mutagen by hSULT1A1 (4000–5400 revertants/nmol), weakly activated by hSULT1A2 or hSULT2A1 (1–12 revertants/nmol), but not activated by the other hSULTs. In contrast to their human orthologue, mouse, rat and dog SULT1A1 did not appreciably activate 2-OH-MC (<1 to 6 revertants/nmol), either. Instead, mouse and rat SULT1B1, unlike their human and canine orthologues, demonstrated some activation of 2-OH-MC (15–100 revertants/nmol). Docking analyses indicated that 1- and 2-OH-MC might bind to the active site of hSULT1A1 and hSULT1B1, but only for (S)-2-OH-MC/hSULT1A1 and (R)-1-OH-MC/hSULT1B1 with an orientation suitable for catalysis. Indeed, 1- and 2-OH-MC were potent inhibitors of the hSULT1A1-mediated sulphation of acetaminophen [concentration inhibiting the enzyme activity by 50% (IC50) 15 and 13nM, respectively]. This inhibition was weak with mouse, rat and dog SULT1A1 (IC50 ≥ 4 µM). Inhibition of the SULT1B1 enzymes was moderate, strongest for 1-OH-MC/hSULT1B1. In conclusion, this study provides examples for high selectivity of bioactivation of promutagens by an individual form of human SULT and for pronounced differences in activation capacity between orthologous SULTs from different mammalian species. These characteristics make the detection and evaluation of such mutagens extremely difficult, in particular as the critical form may even differ for positional isomers, such as 1- and 2-OH-MC. Moreover, the species-dependent differences will complicate the verification of in vitro results in animal studies.