The processes involved in cell response to camptothecin (CPT) were investigated in two sublines of L5178Y (LY) murine lymphoma; LY-R, resistant and LY-S, sensitive to X-irradiation, which are inversely cross-sensitive to the drug. The cells were pulse-treated with 2 microM CPT for 1 h; this resulted in equal numbers of replication-related DNA double-strand breaks (DSBs) in both sublines. After drug removal, at different time points up to 24 h, the levels of DSBs were measured by using field inversion gel electrophoresis (FIGE) and comet assay at neutral pH. Both methods revealed faster DSBs repair in LY-S than in LY-R cells, in contrast with X-ray-induced DSBs. This however, was followed by the appearance of secondary breaks in the former subline. The cell cycle arrest was at S/G2 phase and comprised equal numbers of cells in LY-S and LY-R populations. In both sublines formation of giant cells took place, as well as delayed apoptosis starting about 20 h post-CPT incubation and proceeding with similar intensity. At the same time, the total number of necrotic cells appearing during post-exposure incubation in the LY-R subline exceeded that in the LY-S subline. We suggest that, beside previously documented higher susceptibility of topoisomerase I (Topo I) from LY-R cells to CPT, a higher initial rate of replication-related DSBs repair, but not lower propensity to apoptosis, may contribute to the relative CPT resistance of LY-S versus LY-R cells.