We describe the cloning and function of the human XRCC1 gene, which is the first mammalian gene isolated that affects cellular sensitivity to ionizing radiation. The CHO mutant EM9 has 10-fold-higher sensitivity to ethyl methanesulfonate, 1.8-fold-higher sensitivity to ionizing radiation, a reduced capacity to rejoin single-strand DNA breaks, and a 10-fold-elevated level of sister chromatid exchange compared with the CHO parental cells. The complementing human gene was cloned from a cosmid library of a tertiary transformant. Two cosmid clones produced transformants that showed approximately 100% correction of the repair defect in EM9 cells, as determined by the kinetics of strand break repair, cell survival, and the level of sister chromatid exchange. A nearly full-length clone obtained from the pcD2 human cDNA expression library gave approximately 80% correction of EM9, as determined by the level of sister chromatid exchange. Based on an analysis of the nucleotide sequence of the cDNA insert compared with that of the 5' end of the gene from a cosmid clone, the cDNA clone appeared to be missing approximately 100 bp of transcribed sequence, including 26 nucleotides of coding sequence. The cDNA probe detected a single transcript of approximately 2.2 kb in HeLa polyadenylated RNA by Northern (RNA) blot hybridization. From the open reading frame and the positions of likely start sites for transcription and translation, the size of the putative XRCC1 protein is 633 amino acids (69.5 kDa). The size of the XRCC1 gene is 33 kb, as determined by localizing the endpoints on a restriction endonuclease site map of one cosmid clone. The deduced amino acid sequence did not show significant homology with any protein in the protein sequence data bases examined.