Poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase has been generally assumed to be involved in DNA repair. The level of the enzyme in various lung cancer cell lines was examined to determine if it is involved in drug resistance. Among nine cell lines of lung cancer tested, small-cell lung cancer lines, which showed higher sensitivity to cisplatin and etoposide, were unexpectedly found to contain significantly higher poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activity than five non-small-cell lung cancer cell lines. This activity inversely correlated with IC50 values of lung cancer cell lines to etoposide, an inhibitor of topoisomerase II. The polymerase activity was also examined in several cisplatin-resistant variants of the cell lines. However, no difference was observed between parental and cisplatin-resistant cells. There was no significant relation between poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activity and IC50 values for cisplatin and carboplatin. Although this enzyme was considered to play some role in the resistance to specific drugs, it might not be a critical factor in cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity.