Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice are defective in their ability to rearrange their variable (V), diversity (D) and joining (J) genetic elements to generate functional immunoglobulin (Ig) and T-cell receptor (TCR) molecules; as a result, they lack mature B and T cells. These mice are highly sensitive to ionizing radiation, suggesting that the product of the scid gene plays a critical role in both V(D)J recombination and DNA double-strand break repair. Recent studies suggest that the SCID defect lies in the gene encoding the catalytic subunit of DNA-dependent protein kinase (DNA-PK; refs 6-8), a nuclear protein made up of the Ku 70 and Ku 86 subunits as well as the large catalytic subunit, DNA-PKcs. Other reports have implied that the SCID phenotype correlates with nonsense mutations at the extreme 3' end of Prkdc, the DNA-PKcs gene. The identity of the gene remains in doubt, however, because the consequences of genetic inactivation of Prkdc have not been determined. This study shows that complete inactivation of Prkdc in a novel insertional mouse mutant recapitulates the SCID phenotype and that Prkdc and scid are alleic. Significantly, DNA-PKcs null mice demonstrate complete penetrance of thymic lymphoblastic lymphomas, strongly suggesting that Prkdc functions in mice as a T-cell tumour suppressor and, by virtue of its association with DNA repair and recombination, belongs to the 'caretaker' class of tumour-suppressor genes that includes ATM, BRCA1 and BRCA2 (ref. 15).