DNA synthesis was examined in ultraviolet (uv)-irradiated ICR 2A frog cells in which either pyrimidine dimers or nondimer photoproducts represented the major class of DNA lesions. Dimers were induced by exposure of cells to 254 nm uv, while nondimer photoproducts were induced by irradiation of cells with uv produced by a fluorescent sunlamp (FSL) that was filtered through 48A Mylar (removes wavelengths less than 310 nm). The FSL-irradiated cultures were also treated with photoreactivating light (PRL) which removed most of the small number of dimers induced by the irradiation, leaving a relatively pure population of nondimer photoproducts. In addition, cells were exposed to 60Co gamma rays. The cultures were pulse-labeled and the size distribution of the DNA synthesized was estimated using both sucrose gradient sedimentation and alkaline step elution. Using either of these techniques, it was found that the presence of dimers resulted in a reduction principally in the synthesis of high molecular weight (MW) DNA. In contrast, nondimer photoproducts caused a strong inhibition in the synthesis of low MW DNA, as was also observed in gamma-irradiated cells. Hence the induction of pyrimidine dimers in DNA mainly affected the elongation of replicons, whereas nondimer lesions primarily caused an inhibition of replicon initiation.