In this study, we examined whether levels of P4501A mRNA expression were naturally induced in feral fish, Liza saliens, and whether CYP1A protein levels and associated enzyme activity, EROD, were also increased. Induction of mRNA was measured using a nucleic acid hybridization technique. For the hybridization studies, a new 33-mer oligonucleotide probe 5 ' -dCTC ATC CAG CTT CCT GTC CTC GCA GTG ATC AAT-3 ' was designed, which corresponded to the totally conserved amino acid motif of CYP1A protein from positions 291 to 301 among the various fish species. Results of Northern blot analysis revealed that RNA isolated from the liver of mullet collected from the highly contaminated region of Izmir Bay with a dissolved and dispersed petroleum hydrocarbon content of 12.45 mug 1(-1) gave a strong hybridization signal, whereas only a weak hybridization signal was detected in the liver RNA of fish caught from the reference site containing less than 1 mug 1(-1) Of petroleum hydrocarbons. Similarly, fish from the contaminated site had approximately 80 times more EROD activity than the feral fish captured from the reference site. Studies using polyclonal antibodies produced against purified mullet CYP1A also showed the similar trend. In conclusion, feral leaping mullet caught from contaminated water displayed induction of CYP1A at three levels of expression, namely, mRNA, apoprotein and catalytic activity. (C) 2001 Elsevier Science Inc. All rights reserved.