Aphidicolin, a specific inhibitor of DNA polymerase alpha, is known to induce chromosomal aberrations. At concentrations that did not greatly affect mitotic index, aphidicolin induced a striking number of chromosome gaps and breaks distributed in a highly nonrandom manner in cultured human lymphocytes. Specific chromosome bands, especially 2q31, 3p14, 6q26, 7q32, 16q23, and Xp22 were preferentially damaged in lymphocytes from each of 12 subjects studied. Total and site-specific damage was dose dependent and greatly increased when folic acid was removed from the medium. The sites most sensitive to aphidicolin damage include the "hot spots" seen under conditions of thymidylate stress and in studies of spontaneous chromosomal damage. The fragile X site, which can also be induced by thymidylate stress, was not induced by aphidicolin in lymphocytes, suggesting a separate mechanism for its induction. Aphidicolin represents a novel tool for detection of hot spots on human chromosomes through the mechanism of DNA polymerase alpha inhibition. The hot spots induced by aphidicolin represent a new class of fragile sites which we term common fragile sites.