Trichothiodystrophy (TTD) is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by brittle hair, mental and growth retardation, peculiar face, ichthyosis, and in 20% of the reported cases photosensitivity. Cellular photosensitivity due to the same genetic defect present in xeroderma pigmentosum group D (XP-D) has been described in several patients. Nine patients with clinical symptoms diagnostic for TTD have been identified in Italy to date. We report the results of DNA repair investigations performed in cultured fibroblasts from these patients and 8 TTD parents. Survival, DNA repair synthesis and RNA synthesis following UV irradiation were all normal in the 8 TTD heterozygous cell strains. Among the 9 TTD-affected individuals, normal cellular UV sensitivity was observed in the 2 patients without signs of clinical photosensitivity. In contrast, the other 7 TTD cell strains showed a notable reduction in UV-induced DNA repair synthesis (UDS) levels, ranging between 40% and 5-15% of normal values. Complementation analysis indicated that in the repair-deficient TTD cell strains the genetic defect is the same as that present in XP-D cells. The biochemical heterogeneity of the XP-D defect in TTD patients characterized by different degrees of defective UDS results in different patterns of response to the killing effect of UV light in non-proliferating cells.