He-Ne laser pre-irradiation-induced protection against UVC damage was investigated in wild-type E. coli K12 strain AB1157 and its isogenic DNA repair mutant strains. At a dose of 7 kJ/m(2), pre-irradiation was observed to induce protection in recA proficient strains (AB1157 and uvrA(-) AB1886) at both the irradiances investigated (2 and 100 W/m(2)). However, at the same dose (7 kJ/m(2)), while no protection was observed at 100 W/m(2) in the recA(-) strain, some protection appeared to be there at 2 W/m(2). Mechanistic studies carried out on these strains at the two irradiances suggest that, whereas the protection observed at 100 W/m(2) is mediated by singlet oxygen, that observed at 2 W/m(2) is not. Further, the fact that protection at 100 W/m(2) was observed only in recA proficient strains suggests that it may arise due to the induction of DNA repair processes controlled by the recA gene. The latter may arise due to the oxidative stress produced by singlet oxygen generated by He-Ne laser irradiation. In contrast, the protection observed at 2 W/m(2) appears to be independent of the DNA repair proficiency of the strain.