The effects of novobiocin and nalidixic acid on the specific toxicity of aphidicolin towards u.v. irradiated arrested (nondividing) human skin fibroblasts have been determined. Contrary to the result expected if either drug were causing inhibition of excision repair at a pre-incision step the sector of toxicity due to a combined treatment of 300 micrograms ml-1 nalidixic acid and 1.0 micrograms ml-1 aphidicolin is unchanged when compared with that due to treatment with 1.0 micrograms ml-1 aphidicolin alone, while that for 150 micrograms ml-1 novobiocin + 1.0 micrograms ml-1 aphidicolin was slightly increased. In parallel measurements of the inhibition of u.v.-induced DNA repair synthesis in arrested fibroblasts by these drugs, 150 micrograms ml-1 novobiocin inhibited repair synthesis by approximately 60% over the fluence range employed. Nalidixic acid at a concentration of 300 micrograms ml-1 caused no detectable inhibition of repair synthesis. We conclude that the mode of action of novobiocin in the inhibition of DNA excision repair is not via the inhibition of a pre-incision step and the data do not support the hypothesis that a type II topoisomerase mediated change in DNA supercoiling is an essential early step in excision repair of u.v.-induced damage.