The occurrence, identity, and activity of microbes from the class Actinobacteria was studied in the surface waters of 10 oligo- to mesotrophic mountain lakes located between 913 m and 2,799 m above sea level. Oligonucleotide probes were designed to distinguish between individual lineages within this group by means of fluorescence in situ hybridization (FISH). Bacteria of a single phylogenetic lineage (acI) represented >90% of all Actinobacteria in the studied lakes, and they constituted up to 70% of the total bacterial abundances. In the subset of eight lakes situated above the treeline, the community contribution of bacteria from the acI lineage was significantly correlated with the ambient levels of solar UV radiation (UV transparency, r(2) = 0.72; P < 0.01). Three distinct genotypic subpopulations were distinguished within acI that constituted varying fractions of all Actinobacteria in the different lakes. The abundance of growing actinobacterial cells was estimated by FISH and immunocytochemical detection of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdU) incorporation into de novo-synthesized DNA. The percentages of Actinobacteria with visible DNA synthesis approximately corresponded to the average percentages of BrdU-positive cells in the total assemblages. Actinobacteria from different subclades of the acI lineage, therefore, constituted an important autochthonous element of the aquatic microbial communities in many of the studied lakes, potentially also due to their higher UV resistance.