Hydroxyurea, a chemotherapeutic and radiosensitizing agent, inhibits ribonucleotide reductase, arrests cells in the S-phase and is mutagenic and recombinagenic. In this paper we investigated whether the recombinagenic activity of hydroxyurea is due to the same activity that leads to arrest in the S-phase or to a more direct action on DNA. The effect of hydroxyurea on intrachromosomal and interchromosomal recombination was investigated in dividing and in G1 or G2 cell cycle-arrested cells of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae. Treatment of dividing cells with hydroxyurea resulted in a large increase in recombination frequencies, even at low non-toxic doses. In contrast, in cells arrested in the G1 or G2 phase, hydroxyurea failed to induce recombination, even at 60-fold higher toxic doses. The presence of metabolic activation (S9 mix) did not change the effects of hydroxyurea on recombination. The data suggest that the recombinagenic activity of hydroxyurea may not be due to any direct effect of hydroxyurea on DNA, but may be linked to the inhibition of ribonucleotide reductase causing inhibition of DNA synthesis leading to S-phase arrest and possibly causing recombinagenic lesions.