Cells containing incorporated /sup 3/H-thymidine are damaged by its decay. It was found with E.coli TAU-bar cells that a small part of the damage is lethal whereas most of it is reparable and only potentially lethal. If cells are subjected to nongrowth conditions, the potentially lethal damage changes to lethal damage. This process is called secondary lethality (SL). The extent of SL and some changes in DNA under three different modes of growth inhibition were determined. It was found that: (i) SL is maximal under conditions of amino acid starvation (-AA), the viable count decreasing by two orders of magnitude. (ii) SL is 4 times lower in the presence of chloramphenicol (-AA+CLP) and 6.5 times lower under +AA+CLP conditions. Changes in the sedimentation rate of DNA determined in alkaline sucrose gradient correlate with the differences in SL: under -AA conditions the sedimentation rate of DNA decreases whereas in the presence of CLP no decrease occurs. The results suggest that certain enzymatic processes take place under -AA conditions which lead to irreparable changes in DNA.