MX100 is an Escherichia coli K12 genotoxicity tester strain, especially developed for mechanistic studies of chemical mutagens and carcinogens. For the study of the role of specific enzymes in the bioactivation and bioinactivation of carcinogens, it is necessary to characterize MX100 as far as its metabolic bio(in)activation capacities are concerned. In this study such a characterization is performed in two types of cell-free lysates, one derived from stationary phase cells, grown in rich medium (SR-lysates) and one from exponentially growing cells (log phase), cultured in minimal medium (LM-lysates). Six Phase I enzyme activities of aromatic NADPH hydroxylase, NADH hydroxylase, flavin-containing monooxygenase (FMO), nitroreductase, DT-diaphorase and NADPH ferredoxin:oxidoreductase were determined. Activities of six Phase II enzymes glutathione S-transferases (GSTs), N-aryl acetyltransferase (NAT), arylamine sulphotransferase, UDP-glucuronyltransferase and epoxide hydratase and of the Phase III enzyme cysteine conjugate β-lyase were subsequently assessed. In addition, five antioxidant enzymes: superoxide dismutase (SOD), catalase, glutathione (GSH)-reductase, GSH-peroxidase and alkyl hydroperoxide reductase; as well as concentrations of glutathione (GSH) and its disulphide (GSSG), were measured. The activity parameters of all enzymes were compared with those obtained in similar lysates of the Salmonella strain TA100 and in rat liver preparations. The results indicate that MX100 as well as TA100 contain relatively low oxidative but high reductase Phase I activities. Both strains demonstrated low activities for the Phase II conjugation enzymes except for GSTs. In MX100, relatively high activities were detected for all antioxidative enzymes, activities which were lower in TA100. Significant differences in activities were observed between the SR-lysates derived from stationary phase/rich medium and LM-lysates from log phase/minimal medium cells for nitroreductase, GST, SOD, catalase, NADPH ferredoxin:oxidoreductase as well as in GSH content. In general, we described for the first time a metabolic characterization of the E.coli tester strain MX100 and the Salmonella typhimurium strain TA100 and discussed the results in terms of its significance for carcinogen bioactivation and bioinactivation capacities.