Pyrazoloacridine (PA), an acridine congener that has shown selective toxicity in solid tumor cells, full activity against noncycling and hypoxic cells, and promising activity in a recent Phase I trial, is currently undergoing Phase II testing as a solid tumor-selective agent. In the present study, clonogenic assays were used to examine the cytotoxic effects when PA was combined with other antineoplastic agents in A549 human non-small cell lung cancer cells in vitro. Data were analyzed by the median effect method. Combinations of PA with antimetabolites (5-fluorouracil, methotrexate, and cytarabine) or with antimicrotubule agents (paclitaxel and vincristine) failed to exhibit synergy. Likewise, combinations of PA with alkylating agents (melphalan, 4-hydroperoxycyclophosphamide) were less than additive. In contrast, the combination of PA and cisplatin exhibited cytotoxicity that was additive or synergistic over a broad range of clinically achievable concentrations. Moreover, studies involving sequential exposure to PA and cisplatin revealed a synergistic interaction when cells were exposed to the two agents in either sequence. Synergy was likewise observed with this combination in T98G human glioblastoma cells and HCT8 human intestinal adenocarcinoma cells as well as AuxB1 hamster ovary cells. Flow microfluorimetry revealed that PA caused arrest of A549 cells in G1 and G2 phases of the cell cycle, providing a potential explanation for the antagonism between PA and antimetabolites or antimicrotubule agents. Further studies revealed that PA inhibited removal of platinum-DNA adducts in A549 cells in a dose-dependent fashion, with almost complete inhibition occurring at 1 microM PA. These latter observations provide a mechanistic explanation for the synergy between PA and cisplatin and suggest that this combination warrants further preclinical and clinical investigation.