Werner Syndrome is a rare autosomal recessive disorder characterized by an increased cancer risk and by symptoms suggestive of premature aging. Cells from these patients demonstrate a typical pattern of chromosomal instability and a spontaneous hypermutability with a high rate of unusually large deletions. We have studied the in vivo DNA ligation in three lymphoblast cell lines from Werner syndrome patients and three from normal donors. In our host cell ligation assay we transfected linearized plasmid pZ189 and measured the amount of plasmid DNA ends rejoined by these host cells as the ability of the recovered plasmid to transform bacteria. A mutagenesis marker gene close to the ligation site allowed screening for mutations. Subsequent mutation analysis provided information about the accuracy of the ligation process. The cells from Werner syndrome patients were as effective as normal cells in ligating DNA ends. However, mutation analysis revealed that the three Werner syndrome cell lines introduced 2.4-4.6 times more mutations (p < 0.001) than the normal cell lines during ligation of the DNA ends: the mutation rates were 69.4, 97.2, and 58.7%, as compared to 23.6, 21.7, and 24.4% in the normal cell lines. These increased mutation frequencies in plasmids ligated during passage through Werner syndrome cells were mainly due to a significant (p < 0.001) increase in deletions. This error-prone DNA ligation might be responsible for the spontaneous hypermutability and the genomic instability in Werner syndrome cells and related to the apparently accelerated aging and high cancer risk in affected patients.