The ability of the potent poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase (PARP) inhibitor, NU1025 (8-hydroxy-2-methyl-quinazolin-4-[3H]one) to potentiate the cytotoxicity of a panel of mechanistically diverse anti-cancer agents was evaluated in L1210 cells. NU1025 enhanced the cytotoxicity of the DNA-methylating agent MTIC, gamma-irradiation and bleomycin 3.5-, 1.4- and 2-fold respectively. The cytotoxicities of the thymidylate synthase inhibitor, nolatrexed, and the cytotoxic nucleoside, gemcitabine, were not increased. Potentiation of MTIC cytotoxicity by a delayed exposure to NU1025 was equally effective as by a simultaneous exposure to NU1025, indicating that the effects of NU1025 were mediated by an inhibition of the cellular recovery. The recovery from potentially lethal gamma-irradiation damage cytotoxicity in plateau-phase cells was also inhibited by NU1025. Investigation of DNA strand breakage and repair in gamma-irradiated cells by alkaline elution demonstrated that NU1025 caused a marked retardation of DNA repair. A structurally different PARP inhibitor, NU1064 (2-methylbenzimidazole-4-carboxamide), also potentiated the cytotoxicity of MTIC, to a similar extent to NU1025. NU1064 potentiated a sublethal concentration of a DNA methylating agent in a concentration-dependent manner. Collectively, these data suggest that the most suitable cytotoxic agents for use in combination with PARP inhibitors are methylating agents, bleomycin and ionizing radiation, but not anti-metabolites.