Ribonucleotide reductase (RR) is a rate-limiting enzyme in DNA synthesis and repair. The enzyme consists of two dissimilar subunits, M1 and M2. It is known that the M2 subunit plays a role in tumorgenicity and metastasis. In this study, we transfected human oropharyngeal KB cancer cells with human RR M1 and M2 antisense cDNA expressed by an inducible vector system. The transfectants were double-selected with hygromycin and G418. The clones, designated KB-M1AS, KB-M2AS and KB-CAT, represented transfectant clones that contained M1 antisense cDNA, M2 antisense cDNA, and a CAT reporter gene, respectively. In a colony-forming assay, colony formation for the KB-M2AS clone decreased approximately 50% when M2 antisense mRNA expression was induced by isopropylthiogalactose (IPTG). However, the KB-M1AS clone revealed no significant inhibition under IPTG induction. RR enzyme activity, as measured by 14CDP reduction assay, revealed a 30% decrease in the IPTG-induced KB-M2AS clone relative to non-IPTG-induced samples at 144 hours. As shown by Northern blot, expression of the M2 antisense mRNA showed peaks at 48 hours and 144 hours after induction by IPTG. M2 antisense mRNA expression induced by IPTG was 33-fold greater than the uninduced control at 144 hours. Western blot analysis showed that the M2 subunit protein level decreased in the KB-M2AS clone beginning at 72 hours after induction and continued to decrease to 50% of the uninduced control at 144 hours, then showed a slight recovery at 168 hours. In conclusion, M2 antisense mRNA expression by an inducible system can effectively decrease RR M2 protein expression, reduce enzyme activity, and inhibit growth. Furthermore, this approach can be employed in future antisense investigations.