Indian muntjac fibroblasts of the SV40-transformed line SVM are hypersensitivity to UV, and after UV irradiation have defective post-replication recovery and a high level of sister chromatid exchanges and chromosome aberrations. The lethal and clastogenic effects of UV on SVM have elsewhere been shown to be aggravated by caffeine, which overcomes the block to cycle traverse imposed by DNA damage; however, in DM cells, an Indian muntjac line of normal UV sensitivity, caffeine has no effect on cycle traverse, but nevertheless enhances UV killing and sister chromatid exchanges. In this paper, the effects of caffeine on irradiated DM cells are shown to be due to its inhibition of post-replication recovery, with subsequent formation of DNA double-strand breaks at the strand gaps thus produced. By contrast, in SVM cells the limited capacity for post-replication recovery is relatively insensitive to caffeine after UV fluences which permit significant cell survival; however, caffeine still strongly induces DNA double-strand breaks and chromosome aberrations, apparently by an alternative mechanism. The SVM and DM cell lines therefore exemplify separate actions of caffeine on mammalian cells, deficient in the caffeine effects on post-replication recovery and cell cycle progression, respectively.