To investigate the role of DNA damage in the pathogenesis of systemic lupus erythematosus (SLE), we studied the ability of skin fibroblasts derived from SLE patients to recover from ultraviolet (UV) light radiation of varying wavelengths. Four of five SLE cell strains were more sensitive to UV-C (254 nm), sun lamp, and UV-A (320 to 400 nm) light than were normal cells. SLE cellular recovery was most sensitive to broad spectrum, long wavelength light. This hypersensitivity did not appear to result from the UV light activation of a clastogenic factor. Experiments which examined the DNA repair capacity of irradiated cells indicated that SLE fibroblasts may be able to excise certain DNA lesions as well as normal cells. The mechanisms responsible for the hypersensitivity of SLE cells remain under investigation.