We investigated the cloning efficiency, DNA repair, and the rate of DNA replication in the skin fibroblasts from patients with Werner's syndrome (WS) of an autosomal recessive premature aging disease. Five WS strains exhibited normal levels of sensitivity toward X-ray and UV killings and repair of X-ray induced single strand breaks of DNA (rejoining) and UV damage to DNA (unscheduled DNA synthesis). The sedimentation of newly synthesizing DNA in alkaline sucrose gradients demonstrated a characteristic feature that only the elongation rate of DNA chains, estimated by the molecular weight increase, was significantly slower during early passages in WS cells than in normal Hayflick Phase II fibroblasts. In addition, plating efficiencies as well as the replicative potentials of five WS strains were more limited than those of normal cells under the identical culture conditions. It seems therefore that at least in the WS cells tested, the slow rate of DNA replication may be more related to the shortened lifespan and enhanced cell death, as manifestation of premature senescence at the cellular level, than be the DNA repair ability.