We studied the response to UV irradiation in cells from four patients, from three apparently unrelated families, affected by trichothiodystrophy (TTD). They showed all the symptoms of this rare autosomal recessive disorder (brittle hair with reduced sulfur content, mental and physical retardation, ichthyosis, peculiar face) together with photosensitivity. We found a decreased rate of duplicative DNA synthesis in stimulated lymphocytes, reduced survival in fibroblasts, and very low levels of unscheduled DNA synthesis (UDS) in Go lymphocytes and fibroblasts after UV irradiation. Complementation studies showed that normal values of UDS are restored in heterokaryons obtained by fusion of TTD cells with normal and xeroderma pigmentosum (XP)-complementation group A-cells. In contrast the defect is not complemented by fusion with XP-complementation group D-fibroblasts.