We find a dramatic difference in the efficiency of removal of UV-induced pyrimidine dimers from the transcribed and nontranscribed strands of the dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) gene in cultured hamster and human cells. In hamster cells, 80% of the dimers are removed from the transcribed strand in 4 hr, but little repair occurs in the nontranscribed strand even after 24 hr. In human cells, repair is significantly faster in the transcribed strand than in the other strand. Furthermore, in the 5' flanking region of the human DHFR gene, selective rapid repair occurs in the opposite DNA strand relative to the transcribed strand of the DHFR gene. This strand is thought to serve as a template for transcription of a divergent transcript. These results have important implications for excision repair pathways and mutagenesis in mammalian cells.