Chemical and toxicological characterization of unresolved complex mixtures in the water-soluble fraction of an artificially weathered Norwegian Sea crude oil was determined by a combination of chemical analysis and toxicity testing in fish in vitro bioassays. The water-soluble fraction of the crude oil was separated into 14 increasingly polar fractions by preparative high-pressure liquid chromatography. The in vitro toxicity (7-ethoxyresorufin <O-deethylase activity, estrogenicity, and metabolic inhibition) of these fractions was characterized in a primary culture of liver cells (hepatocytes) from rainbow trout (Oncorhynchus mykiss). The main contributor to toxicity was one of the most polar fractions, accounting gravimetrically for more than 70% of the organic material in the water-soluble fraction and dominated by an unresolved complex mixture. Chemical analysis by gas chromatography-mass spectrometry and comprehensive two-dimensional gas chromatography—time of flight—mass spectrometry identified a large number of cyclic and aromatic sulfoxide compounds and low amounts of benzothiophenes (<0.1% of total mass) in this fraction. Commonly monitored toxic components of crude oil (e.g., naphthalenes, polycyclic aromatic hydrocarbons, and alkylated phenols) eluted in less polar fractions, characterized by somewhat lower toxicity. Normalization of in vitro responses to the mass in each fraction demonstrated a more even distribution of toxicity, indicating that toxicity in the individual fractions was related to the amount of material present. Although polar and nonpolar compounds contribute additively to crude oil toxicity, the water-soluble fraction was dominated by polar compounds because of their high aqueous solubility and the high oil—water loading. Under these conditions, the polar unresolved complex mixture—rich fraction might account for a large portion of crude oil toxicity because of its high abundance in the water-soluble fraction.