The phenotypic consequences of a nucleotide excision repair (NER) defect in man are apparent from three distinct inborn diseases characterized by hypersensitivity of the skin to ultraviolet light and a remarkable clinical and genetic heterogeneity. These are the prototype repair syndrome, xeroderma pigmentosum (XP) (seven genetic complementation groups, designated XP-A to XP-G), Cockayne's syndrome (two groups: CS-A and CS-B) and PIBIDS, a peculiar photosensitive form of the brittle hair disease trichothiodystrophy (TTD, at least two groups of which one equivalent to XP-D). To investigate the mechanism of NER and to resolve the molecular defect in these NER deficiency diseases we have focused on the cloning and characterization of human DNA repair genes. One of the genes that we cloned is ERCC3. It specifies a chromatin binding helicase. Transfection and microinjection experiments demonstrated that mutations in ERCC3 are responsible for XP complementation group B, a very rare form of XP that is simultaneously associated with Cockayne's syndrome (CS). The ERCC3 protein was found to be part of a multiprotein complex (TFIIH) required for transcription initiation of most structural genes and for NER. This defines the additional, hitherto unknown vital function of the gene. This ERCC3 gene and several other NER genes involved in transcription initiation will be discussed.