UV irradiation of quiescent human fibroblasts immediately triggers the appearance of the nuclear protein cyclin/proliferating cell nuclear antigen (PCNA) as detected by indirect immunofluorescent staining after methanol fixation. This was found to be independent of new synthesis of cyclin/PCNA by two-dimensional gel analysis and cycloheximide treatment. The intensity of the immunofluorescent staining of cyclin/PCNA observed in UV-irradiated cells corresponded with the UV dose used and with the DNA repair synthesis detected by autoradiography. The nuclear staining remains as long as DNA repair activity is detected in the cells. By extracting the UV-irradiated quiescent cells with Triton X-100 and fixing with formaldehyde, it was possible to demonstrate by indirect immunofluorescence rapid changes in the cyclin/PCNA population after irradiation, a small proportion (5-10%) of which is tightly associated to the nucleus as determined by high salt extraction. By incubating at low temperature and depleting the ATP pools of the cells before UV irradiation, we have demonstrated that the changes in cyclin/PCNA distribution observed involve at least two different nuclear associations.