The effect of mercaptoethylamine (MEA) on degradation of DNA in thermophilic bacteria Bac. stear. exposed to ..gamma..-, UV-rays or methylnitrosourea (MNU) was studied. Using centrifugation on alkaline and neutral sucrose gradients, it was shown that MEA inhibits the accumulation of breaks in the DNA of Bac. stear. It also lowers the level of DNA degradation in toluene-treated cells of Bac. stear. under the action of the intrinsic nuclease, reduces the activity of the endonuclease specific for apurinic DNA, as well as that of S/sub 1/-nuclease and DNase-I in vitro. The inhibition in the accumulation of DNA breaks is assumed to be due to a decrease of the endonuclease activity in the cells of thermophilic bacteria.