Exposure of Chinese hamster cells to reduced oxygen partial pressure results in a marked enhancement in the frequency of methotrexate resistance and dihydrofolate reductase gene amplification. The frequency of enhanced resistance is a function of the length of exposure to hypoxic conditions and the time after recovery from hypoxia when cells are plated into methotrexate-containing medium. Hypoxia results in an inhibition of DNA synthesis; upon return to normal oxygen atmosphere, greater than 60% of cells in S phase at the time hypoxia was started subsequently undergo overreplication of DNA within a single cell cycle. The cells with the increased frequency of gene amplification are derived from this subset of overreplicated cells. These results are discussed within the context of the hypoxic state of many solid tumors and the high frequency of aneuploidy, chromosomal aberrations, and spontaneously occurring resistances to a number of cancer chemotherapeutic agents.