Dose-cure experiments have been carried out on a moderately well differentiated murine mammary carcinoma, designated MCA-4, at different stages of growth after tumor-cell inoculation or after 8 mm established tumors had been exposed to 60 Gy. TCD50 assays were performed at 1, 3, 7, 14, or 21 days after tumor cell inoculation, or when tumors reached a size of 6 or 8 mm. Likewise, TCD50 assays were performed at 0.25, 1, 3, 5, 8, 12, 16, or 21 days after 8 mm tumors had been exposed to a 60 Gy priming dose, or when the recurrent tumors reached 6 or 8 mm. All irradiations were performed under hypoxic conditions. The TCD50 (95% confidence limits) was 64.0 (61.7-68.3) Gy for the 6-mm and 71.9 (70.1-73.9) Gy for the 8 mm tumors, and these values were unaffected by preirradiation. Direct analysis was used for the simultaneous estimation of D0, clonogen number, and clonogen doubling time from the pooled data. There was no significant difference between D0 estimates for the preirradiated and control tumors, and the pooled estimate was 10.6 (9.6-11.8) Gy for tumors assayed at specified time points where the size was unknown. This is clearly higher than in tumors of known size [estimate for 6- and 8-mm tumors: D0 = 5.4 (4.5-6.6) Gy] owing to size and other heterogeneity. The clonogen doubling times (Tclon) were 3.4 (3.0-4.0) days in the preirradiated tumors and 5.8 (4.9-7.1) days in the unirradiated tumors. It is not unreasonable to assume that the systematic error due to heterogeneity was approximately the same for D0 and Tclon (since variable clonogen number is likely the predominant source of heterogeneity), and thus the ratio of D0 for tumors of unknown sizes (10.6 Gy) and D0 for tumors of known sizes (5.4 Gy) can be used to "correct" the Tclon estimates, with the result that Tclon (preirradiated) = 1.7 days and Tclon (unirradiated) = 3.0 days. We conclude that the clonogen doubling time was shorter in tumors exposed to a single high-dose irradiation than in unirradiated controls, which implies the existence of faster cell repopulation in irradiated tumors.