Cells derived from individuals with mutations in the xeroderma pigmentosum complementation group A gene (XP-A gene) are hypersensitive to UV light and have a severe defect in nucleotide excision repair of damaged DNA. UV-resistant revertant cell lines can arise from XP-A cells in culture. Cells of one such revertant, XP129, were previously shown to remove (6-4) photoproducts from irradiated DNA, but to have poor repair of cyclobutane pyrimidine dimers. To analyze the biochemical nature of the reversion, whole cell extracts were prepared from the SV40-immortalized fibroblast cell lines XP12RO (an XP-A cell line), the revertant XP129 (derived from XP12RO), and 1BR.3N (from a normal individual). The ability of extracts to carry out repair synthesis in UV-irradiated DNA was examined, and immunoblots were performed using antiserum that recognizes XP-A protein. XP12RO extracts exhibited a very low level of repair and no detectable XP-A protein, but repair activity could be conferred by adding purified XP-A protein to the reaction mixture. XP129 extracts have essentially normal repair synthesis consistent with the observation that most repair of UV-irradiated DNA by extracts appears to occur at (6-4) photoproducts. An XP-A polypeptide of normal size was present in XP129, but in reduced amounts. The results indicate that in XP129 a mutational event has converted the inactive XP12RO XP-A gene into a form which expresses an active XP-A protein.