Thymic cells were isolated at intervals of between 0 and 144 h from mice that received one intraperitoneal injection of emetine (33 mg/kg), and thymus weight, incorporation of [14C]leucine into proteins and [3H]thymidine into DNA in intact thymic cells, as well as initial rates of protein ADP-ribosylation in permeabilized cells [A. Sóoki-Tóth, F. Asghari, E. Kirsten, and E. Kun (1987) Exp. Cell Res. 170, 93] were simultaneously monitored. The effect of emetine as an inhibitor of protein synthesis [F. Antoni, N. G. Luat, I. Csuka, I. Oláh, A. Sóoki-Tóth, and G. Bánfalvi (1987) Int. J. Immunopharmacol. 9, 333] corresponds to the induction of sequential cellular events, such as cell exit and remigration, by other antimitotic agents [C. Penit and F. Vasseur (1988) J. Immunol. 140, 3315] and produces an activation of proliferation of cells reentering into this organ. Proliferation, as demonstrated by a large increase in DNA synthesis and entrance into S phase, was kinetically related to an apparent increase in poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activity in thymic cells and a highly significant in vitro ADP-ribosylation of histone H3. Since no DNA fragmentation occurred in thymic cells, as tested by a fluorometric technique [C. Birnboim and J. J. Jevac (1981) Cancer Res. 41, 1889], it is probable that a selective activation of poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase may have been induced in cells that undergo differentiation and proliferation while repopulating the thymus.