One of the first responses observed in S phase mammalian cells that have suffered DNA damage is the inhibition of initiation of DNA replicons. In cells exposed to ionizing radiation, a single-strand break appears to be the stimulus for this effect, whereby the initiation of many adjacent replicons (a replicon cluster) is blocked by a single-strand break in any one of them. In cells exposed to ultraviolet light (u.v.), replicon initiation is blocked at fluences that induce about one pyrimidine dimer per replicon. The inhibition of replicon initiation by u.v. in Chinese hamster cells that are incapable of excising pyrimidine dimers from their DNA is virtually the same as in cells that are proficient in dimer excision. Therefore, a single-strand break formed during excision repair of pyrimidine dimers is not the stimulus for inhibition of replicon initiation in u.v.-irradiated cells. Considering this fact, as well as the comparative insensitivity of human ataxia telangiectasia cells to u.v.-induced inhibition of replicon initiation, we propose that a relatively rare lesion is the stimulus for u.v.-induced inhibition of replicon initiation.