The effects of confluent holding recovery on survival, chromosomal aberrations, and progression through the life cycle after subculture of human diploid fibroblasts X-irradiated during density inhibition of growth have been examined. The responses of three normal strains were determined and compared with those of four ataxia-telangiectasia (AT), an AT heterozygote, and two hereditary retinoblastoma strains. The capacity for potentially lethal damage repair (PLDR) was slightly reduced in retinoblastoma cells and almost absent in AT cells, but normal in an AT heterozygote. The decline in chromosomal aberrations seen in normal cells during confluent holding was absent in AT cells, consistent with the lack of PLDR. Following subculture, all irradiated AT fibroblasts progressed through the cell cycle to the first mitosis with no delay. AT heterozygotic and retinoblastoma cells showed both an enhanced delay in the initiation of DNA synthesis and a large fraction of cells irreversibly blocked in G1 as compared with normal cells. Both the delayed entry into S and the G1 block were reduced by confluent holding. These results indicate that AT homozygotic and heterozygotic cells respond quite differently to X irradiation.