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The copper and iron status in the liver of non-tumor bearing Long-Evans Cinnamon (LEC) rats (average age 17 months) was investigated. A direct quantitation of loosely-bound copper and iron was also investigated by using a chelating agent, nitrilotriacetic acid (NTA-chelatable free copper and iron). Besides the total copper and iron contents, the level of NTA-chelatable free copper was also higher in LEC rats than in LEA rats (P<0.05). But for the free iron level there was no significant difference between the two rat groups (P>0.05). The formation of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances was higher in LEC rats than in LEA rats (P<0.01). The 4-hydroxy-2-nonenal (HNE)-modified proteins were also clearly demonstrated in LEC rat liver. The copper and iron which produced the most important effect in the process of oxidative damage in LEC rats could not be distinguished. Even though free copper, which could induce free radical injuries, was increased in LEC rats, neither tumor-induction nor preneoplastic lesions in the experimental LEC rats were observed. Therefore it is speculated that the elevation of a free iron is another important factor. Copper and iron, both important transition metals in the body, may participate in the induction of DNA damage and oncogenesis.