Damaged nucleotides are removed from the condensed non-coding, or transcriptionally inactive regions of the genome by the relatively slow global genome repair system. Since few data are available for the repair of the pericentric heterochromatin region our aim was to study the repair of a specific sequence, known to be located in this region. We applied a PCR based method to monitor UV damage and repair in chAB4, a human pericentromeric heterochromatin sequence in 10 human cell lines. We here present evidence that excision repair of a sequence in the pericentromeric heterochomatin also varies between cell lines in a manner inconsistent with the canonical model. In some cell lines repair rates were efficient in heterochromatin, comparable to transcription coupled repair, but in some tumour-derived and repair-deficient cell lines we have detected deficient repair. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science Ireland Ltd. All rights reserved.