Bacteria of the genus Deinococcus exhibit an extraordinary ability to withstand the lethal and mutagenic effects of DNA damaging agents-particularly the effects of ionizing radiation. These bacteria are the most DNA damage-tolerant organisms ever identified. Relatively little is known about the biochemical basis for this phenomenon; however, available evidence indicates that efficient repair of DNA damage is, in large part, responsible for the deinococci's radioresistance. Obviously, an explanation of the deinococci's DNA damage tolerance cannot be developed solely on the basis of the DNA repair strategies of more radiosensitive organisms. The deinococci's capacity to survive DNA damage suggests that (a) they employ repair mechanisms that are fundamentally different from other prokaryotes, or that (b) they have the ability to potentiate the effectiveness of the conventional complement of DNA repair proteins. An argument is made for the latter alternative.