During nucleotide excision repair, damaged DNA is incised on both sides of a lesion and an oligomer containing the damage is excised and replaced by repair DNA synthesis. The latter step is accomplished in vitro by proteins that include the DNA polymerase accessory factor PCNA, which binds to DNA ends to initiate repair synthesis. An increased association of PCNA with nuclei occurs after UV irradiation of nonreplicating DNA in normal human fibroblasts, probably following incision of damaged DNA. This property was used to detect the catalysis of nucleotide excision repair incisions in damaged DNA in vivo, by immunostaining of quiescent human fibroblasts with the widely available PC10 antibody. We summarize here a comprehensive survey of PCNA immunostaining in repair-defective xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) cells in comparison to normal cells. XP-A and XP-G cells were completely defective in staining for PCNA 30 min after UV irradiation. This strongly suggests that XPA and XPG proteins are absolutely required in cells before any incisions can be formed in damaged DNA. XP-B, XP-C, XP-D, and XP-F cells showed an intermediate level of staining for PCNA after UV irradiation, indicative of partial incision capacity in those cells. UV-irradiated XP-E and XP-V cells showed normal PCNA immunostaining levels, consistent with evidence that the corresponding factors are not essential for the incision step of repair. The results provide further evidence for the involvement of PCNA in the repair process in vivo and give an alternative to traditional approaches for measurement of nucleotide excision repair capability.