For centuries green tea has been a widely consumed beverage throughout the world. It is known to contain a number of pharmacologically active compounds. In this study water extracts of green tea (WEGT) and their major constituents, green tea polyphenols (GTP), were examined for antimutagenic activity. WEGT and GTP were found to significantly inhibit the reverse mutation induced by benzo[a]pyrene (BP), aflatoxin B1 (AFB1), 2-aminofluorene, and methanol extracts of coal tar pitch in Salmonella typhimurium TA100 and/or TA98 in the presence of a rat-liver microsomal activation system. GTP also inhibited gene forward mutation in V79 cells treated with AFB1 and BP, and also decreased the frequency of sister-chromatid exchanges and chromosomal aberrations in V79 cells treated with AFB1. The addition of GTP during and after nitrosation of methylurea resulted in a dose-dependent inhibition of mutagenicity. Studies to define the mechanism of the antimutagenic activity of GTP suggest that it may affect carcinogen metabolism, DNA adduct formation, the interaction of ultimate carcinogen or the scavenging of free radicals. © 1989.