Nucleotide excision repair is both a 'wide spectrum' DNA repair pathway and the sole system for repairing bulky damages such as UV lesions or benzo[a]pyrene adducts. The mechanisms of nucleotide excision repair are known in considerable detail in Escherichia coli. Similarly, in the past 5 years important advances have been made towards understanding the biochemical mechanisms of excision repair in humans. The overall strategy of the repair is the same in the two species: damage recognition through a multistep mechanism involving a molecular matchmaker and an ATP-dependent unwinding of the damaged duplex; dual incisions at both sides of the lesion by two different nucleases, the 3' incision being followed by the 5'; removal of the damaged oligomer; resynthesis of the repair patch, whose length matches the gap size. Despite these similarities, the two systems are biochemically different and do not even share structural homology. E. coli excinuclease employs three proteins in contrast to 16/17 polypeptides in man; the excised fragment is longer in man: the procaryotic excinuclease is not able by itself to remove the excised oligomer whereas the human enzyme does. Thus, the excinuclease mode of action is well conserved throughout evolution, but not the biochemical tools: this represents a case of evolutionary convergence.