The frequency of Hprt-deficient lymphocytes in mice after in vivo γ irradiation, has been found to vary as a function of time elapsed after exposure and irradiation dose. The frequency of mutant lymphocytes in spleen was determined using an in vitro, clonogenic assay for thioguanine-resistant T-lymphocytes. Mice were exposed to single doses of 0-400 cGy from cesium-137 or to eight daily doses of 50 cGy. The time to maximum-induced mutant frequency was 3 weeks. The dose response was strikingly curvilinear at 3-5 weeks after irradiation, but less precisely defined for 10-53 weeks after exposure, being fit by either linear or quadratic dependence. Three weeks after eight daily 50 cGy exposures, mutant frequency was elevated above controls and mice exposed to 50 cGy (which were not distinct from the nonirradiated controls), but only 17% in that of mice given a single 400 cGy fraction. This fractionation effect and the curvilinearity of the early dose-response curve suggested that saturation of repair increased the yield of mutations at higher acute doses. The decline of spleen mutant frequency in mice observed between 5 and 10 weeks after irradiation may reflect selection against some mutants. The marked variation of mutant frequency, as a function of time after irradiation and of dose rate, emphasize the need to evaluate these variables carefully and consistently in future studies.