Expression of the equilibrative, S-(p-nitrobenzyl)-6-thioinosine (NBMPR)-sensitive nucleoside transporter (es), a component of the nucleoside salvage pathway, was measured during unperturbed growth and following exposure to various antimetabolites at growth-inhibitory concentrations. The probe 5-(SAENTA-x8)-fluorescein is a highly modified form of adenosine incorporating a fluorescein molecule. It binds. with high affinity and specificity to the (es) nucleoside transporter at a 1:1 stoichiometry, allowing reliable estimates of es expression by flow cytometry. Using a dual labelling technique which combined the vital DNA dye Hoechst-33342 and 5-(SAENTA-x8)-fluorescein, we found that surface expression of es approximately doubled between G1 and G2 + M phases of the cell cycle. To address the question of whether es expression could be modulated in cells exposed to drugs which inhibit de novo synthesis of nucleotides, cells were exposed to antimetabolite drugs having different modes of action. Hydroxyurea and 5-fluorouracil (5-FU), which inhibit the de novo synthesis of DNA precursors, produced increases in the expression of es. In contrast, cytosine arabinoside (ara-C) and aphidicolin, which directly inhibit DNA synthesis, produced no significant increase in es expression. Thymidine (TdR), which is an allosteric inhibitor of ribonucleotide reductase that depletes dATP, dCTP and dGTP pools while repleting the dTTP pool, had no significant effect on es expression. These data suggest that surface expression of the es nucleoside transporter is regulated by a mechanism which is sensitive to the supply of deoxynucleotides. Because 5-FU (which specifically depletes dTTP pools) causes a large increase in expression whereas TdR (which depletes all precursors except dTTP) does not, this mechanism might be particularly sensitive to dTTP pools.