Résumé : Cells of patients with ataxia telangiectasia (AT), an inherited disease characterized by a high propensity to cancer, are hypersensitive to ionizing radiation. We investigated whether the hyper-radiosensitivity of AT cells correlated with a defect in their constitutive and/or conditional ability to rescue a damaged exogenous virus. For that purpose, parvovirus H-1, a single-stranded DNA virus whose intranuclear replication mostly relies on host cell functions, was used as a probe. The survival of u.v.-or γ-irradiated H-1 was measured in X-, u.v.- or mock-irradiated human cells of normal (NB-E) or AT (AT5BIVA) origin. γ-irradiated H-1 survived to similar extents in untreated normal and AT cell lines. Both X- and u.v.-irradiatlon induced normal cells to achieve an enhanced reactivation (ER) of -γ- or u.v.-damaged H-1. In contrast, neither dose-effect curves nor time course revealed significant levels of ER expression after X- or u.v.-irradiation in AT5BIVA cells. Our results suggest that the impairment of ER of damaged parvoviruses may constitute a marker of the AT cell phenotype and be related to the radiosensitivity of AT cells. © 1987 IRL Press Limited.