Nucleosides are hydrophilic molecules and require specialized transport proteins for permeation of cell membranes. There are two types of nucleoside transport processes: equilibrative bidirectional processes driven by chemical gradients and inwardly directed concentrative processes driven by the sodium electrochemical gradient. The equilibrative nucleoside transport processes (es, ei) are found in most mammalian cell types, whereas the concentrative nucleoside transport processes (cit, cif, cib, csg, cs) are present primarily in specialized epithelia. Using a variety of cloning strategies and functional expression in oocytes of Xenopus laevis, we have isolated and characterized cDNAs encoding the rat and human nucleoside transporter proteins of the four major nucleoside transport processes of mammalian cells (es, ei, cit, cif). From the sequence relationships of these proteins with each other and with sequences in the public data bases, we have concluded that the equilibrative and concentrative nucleoside transport processes are mediated by members of two previously unrecognized groups of integral membrane proteins, which we have designated the equilibrative nucleoside transporter (ENT) and the concentrative nucleoside transporter (CNT) protein families. This review summarizes the current state of knowledge in the molecular biology of the ENT and CNT protein families, focusing on the characteristics of the four human (h) and rat (r) nucleoside transport proteins (r/hENT1, r/hENT2, r/hCNT1, r/hCNT2).