Ultraviolet (UV) irradiation of cultured human skin fibroblasts causes the disassembly of their microtubules. Using indirect immunofluorescence microscopy, we have now investigated whether damage to the microtubule precursor pool may contribute to the disruption of microtubules. Exposure to polychromatic UV radiation inhibits the reassembly of microtubules during cellular recovery from cold treatment. In addition, the ability of taxol to promote microtubule polymerization and bundling is inhibited in UV-irradiated cells. However, UV irradiation of taxol-pretreated cells or in situ detergent-extracted microtubules fails to disrupt the microtubule network. These data suggest that damage to dimeric tubulin, or another soluble factor(s) required for polymerization, contributes to the disassembly of microtubules in UV-irradiated human skin fibroblasts.