Based on nine quantum chemical descriptors computed by PM3 Hamiltonian, using partial least squares analysis, a significant quantitative structure-property relationship for the logarithm of octanol-air partition coefficients (log K-OA) of polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs) was obtained. The cross-validated Q(cum)(2) value of the model is 0.962, indicating a good predictive ability. The intermolecular dispersive interactions and thus the size of the PCB molecules play a key role in governing log K-OA. The greater the size of PCB molecules, the greater the log K-OA values. Increasing E-LUMO (the energy of the lowest unoccupied molecular orbital) values of the PCBs leads to decreasing log K-OA values, indicating possible interactions between PCB and octanol molecules. Increasing Q(Cl)(+) (the most positive net atomic charges on a chlorine atom) and Q(C)(-) (the largest negative net atomic charge on a carbon atom) values of PCBs results in decreasing log K-OA values, implying possible intermolecular electrostatic interactions between octanol and PCB molecules. (C) 2002 Elsevier Science Ltd. All rights reserved.