Cells from patients with the hereditary multisystem disorder ataxia-telangiectasia (A-T) are hypersensitive to the cytotoxic action of DNA-breaking agents, such as X-rays, bleomycin and neocarzinostatin (NCS). A defect in the repair of a certain DNA lesion induced by all three agents may underlie this hypersensitivity. This DNA lesion may be a certain type of DNA strand break. Most of the previous experiments done with X-rays and bleomycin failed to show any retardation in the rejoining of DNA strand breaks in A-T cells. However, since both A-T homozygous and heterozygous cells are particularly hypersensitive to NCS, we studied the time course of strand breakage induction and repair in A-T skin fibroblast strains treated with NCS, using the sensitive method of alkaline or neutral elution. A linear dose response was obtained for the induction by NCS of single-strand breaks and double-strand breaks. A-T cells did not respond with a higher initial extent of strand breakage compared with normal cells. NCS is an appropriate agent for studying the kinetics of rejoining strand breaks, due to its rapid action in the cells; this action, which is completed within 2--4 min, was studied by monitoring strand break induction, inhibition of DNA synthesis and decrease in cellular survival. The time course of strand break rejoining found after NCS treatment was very similar to that found following X-irradiation: with both single- and double-strand breaks, a rapid phase of rejoining was first noticed (t 1/2 approximately 5 min for single-strand breaks and 20--25 min for double-strand breaks). This was followed by a second, slow phase that continued for several hours. No difference could be detected between normal and A-T cells either with regard to the time course of rejoining or the fraction of non-rejoined breaks remaining several hours after treatment.