The effects of introducing various DNA damage into pSV2gpt DNA on the subsequent expression of xanthine guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (XGPRT), after its transfection into two Walker 256 cell lines, one which is inherently sensitive only to difunctional agents while the other shows a normal sensitivity, have been examined. Both the sensitive (WS) and the relatively resistant (WR) cell lines were shown to be equally capable of both ligation of DNA double-strand breaks (although the efficiency varied with the actual site of the break) introduced into pSV2gpt and homologous recombination of pSV2gpt fragments (recombination events are thought to be important in the repair of DNA-DNA interstrand crosslinks). Reacting the plasmid with either the difunctional platinum compound, Cisplatin, or the monofunctional reacting Pt(Dien) caused a dose-dependent decrease in the subsequent expression of XGPRT. This decrease was about the same with either agent in either cell line when expressed as a function of dose of drug. However, when the actual binding of platinum to DNA by these compounds was measured, a large difference (due to the higher specific binding of Pt(Dien) to DNA) in the effects of the difunctional, as opposed to the monofunctional agent, was apparent and this was a reflection of the relative cytotoxicities of these compounds towards mammalian cells. Although at doses of Cisplatin equitoxic to WS and WR cells 20-fold less Pt is bound to the DNA of WS cells, no significant difference was seen on the expression of pSV2gpt, reacted with this agent, between WS or WR cells. Based upon a knowledge of the proportions of adducts formed in DNA reacted with Cisplatin, the lesion that inactivates expression of XGPRT was probably the intrastrand crosslink and it was calculated that due to the size of the plasmid, the interstrand crosslink was unlikely to be present at these inactivating doses. It is suggested that the inherent sensitivity of WS cells only to difunctional agents is due to their response to such relatively rare lesions such as a DNA-DNA interstrand crosslink.