O6-alkylguanine-DNA-alkyltransferase (ATase) activity was measured in extracts of peripheral blood mononuclear cells (PMCs) taken from eight patients at various times during 5 days of oral treatment with temozolomide (150 mg m-2, days 1-5). Pretreatment ATase levels ranged from approximately 70 to 600 fmol per mg of protein. Depletion of PMC ATase was seen within 4 h of the first dose of temozolomide and had a median nadir of 52.9% and values ranging from 44.4% to 71.0% of pretreatment levels. There was a correlation between the extent of ATase depletion (pretreatment minus nadir level) and the pretreatment ATase level (r = 0.97). A progressive depletion of ATase was observed during the 5 days of continuous temozolomide therapy with median ATase activities of 66.3%, 52.5%, 39.5%, 30.5% and 28.9% of the pretreatment values at days 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6 respectively. This suggests that the schedule-dependent anti-tumour activity of temozolomide seen in experimental models and clinics may be related to a cumulative depletion of ATase.