Aphidicolin inhibits purified DNA polymerases-a and -d in vitro and inhibits mitosis in animal cells. The Chinese hamster V79 cell mutant, Aphr-4-2, was selected for its ability to form colonies in cultured medium supplemented with 1.0 microM aphidicolin. At this concentration, the parental wild-type V79 cells (clone 743x) have a survival rate of less than 10(-7). The mutant DNA polymerase-a is resistant to aphidicolin at concentrations that are inhibitory to the wild-type V79 DNA polymerase-a. The apparent Km for dCTP of the mutant DNA polymerase-a is consistently lower than that of the wild-type DNA polymerase-a. This mutant exhibits slow growth, mutator activity, hypersensitivity, and hypermutability to UV. We wanted to know the basis of UV hypersensitivity in this mutant. Using the antisera (UV2) raised against UV-induced thymidine dimers and a sensitive immunofluorescence assay to measure UV-induced thymidine dimers and with detection in ACAS 570 Workstation, we observed that 50% of the thymidine dimers disappeared within 5 h after irradiation and more than 80% of the dimers were removed within 24 h in both cell lines. These results indicate that the recognition, incision, and excision steps in nucleotide excision repair pathway are normal in the mutant. In order to know if there is a difference in DNA polymerase-a or -d activities in the parental V79(wt) and Aphr-4-2 cells, DNA polymerases were partially purified from the parental and the mutant cells using sequential centrifugation and column chromatographies on DEAE-cellulose (DE23 and DE52) to remove DNA polymerases-beta and -gamma. More than 90% of the enzymatic activities from both cells showed characteristics of DNA polymerase-a type on the basis of these criteria: sensitivity to butyl phenyl dGTP (1 microM) and to IgG raised against DNA polymerase-a (SJK 132-20). The results indicate that DNA replication involving a mutant DNA polymerase-a with altered affinity for dCTP may be responsible for the UV sensitivity and mutability of the mutant.