Adozelesin (U-73975) was highly cytotoxic to V79 cells in culture and was more cytotoxic than several clinically active antitumor drugs as determined in a human tumor-cloning assay. Phase-specificity studies showed that cells in the M+early G1 phase were most resistant to adozelesin and those in the late G1 + early S phase were most sensitive. Adozelesin transiently slowed cell progression through the S phase and then blocked cells in G2. Some cells escaped the G2 block and either divided or commenced a second round of DNA synthesis (without undergoing cytokinesis) to become tetraploid. Adozelesin inhibited DNA synthesis more than it did RNA or protein synthesis. However, the dose needed for inhibition of DNA synthesis was 10-fold that required for inhibition of L1210 cell growth. The observation that cell growth was inhibited at doses that did not cause significant inhibition of DNA synthesis and that cells were ultimately capable of completing two rounds of DNA synthesis in the presence of the drug suggests that adozelesin did not exert its cytotoxicity by significant inhibition of DNA synthesis. It is likely that adozelesin alkylates DNA at specific sites, which leads to transient inhibition of DNA synthesis and subsequent G2 blockade followed by a succession of events (polyploidy and unbalanced growth) that result in cell death.