An accumulation of mutations on their own or together with other age-related changes may contribute to aging and the development of age-related pathologies. The aim of this investigation was to assess the extent of DNA mutations as a function of age in humans. The mutant frequency (MF) at the hypoxanthine-guanine phosphoribosyl-transferase (hgprt) locus was assessed in lymphocytes isolated from male volunteers in each of three age groups (35-39, 50-54 and 65-69 years). Results show that the mean MF in the 65-69 years group was approximately twice that in the 35-39 and 50-54 years groups (4.1/10(6) cells, 1.9/10(6) cells and 1.79/10(6) cells, respectively) increasing by about 1.33% per year, after 54 years. In addition, there was an increased frequency of chromosomal aberrations in the 65-69 years group compared to the other two age groups. The results of this investigation show an increase in DNA mutations in cultured human lymphocytes with age. Factors which may influence the extent of DNA damage in human lymphocytes are discussed.