An autocrine multitherapy resistance factor (MTRF) produced by a radioresistant subclone of S91 mouse melanoma (S91/I3) causes an increase in radioresistance of a radiosensitive subclone (S91/amel). MTRF has no effect on the survival of S91/I3, which is already relatively resistant to ^-irradiation. In this study, we examined the effect of MTRF in the form of S91/ 13 conditioned medium or as S91/I3 heavily-irradiated cells (13- HRCells) on cellular responses of S91/amel cells after exposure to yrays. Target S91/amel cells retained more than half of their ability to respond to rescue by MTRF on day 4 after exposure to 3 Gy. Continuous presence of MTRF during colony formation was necessary for maximum plating efficiency. Although the extent of double strand DNA breakage and repair was the same in S91/amel and S91/I3, split-dose recovery experiments with MTRF revealed previously undetected repair of sublethal damage in S91/amel cells. MTRF did not alter the extent of potentially lethal damage repair (PLDR) in S91/I3 or S91/amel. S91/amel cells were more responsive to MTRF if they had been harvested from confluent dishes, while S91/I3 cells produced a more effective factor if they had been harvested in exponential phase. These findings demonstrate that MTRF has unique properties. It does not appear to be involved in genome repair since it does not alter the extent of PLDR and it is effective when added to cells after complete split-dose recovery has occurred.