Extracellular unbound concentrations of alovudine were sampled by microdialysis in order to study the transport of alovudine between the blood and the brain and the cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) in the rat. The AUC (area under the curve) ratio CSF/blood was higher than the brain/blood ratio after i.v. infusion of alovudine 25mg/kg/hr after a loading dose of 25 mg/kg in 5 minutes (n=4). Neither i.v. infusion of thymidine (25 mg/kg/hr, n=5; 100 mg/kg/hr, n=2) nor acetazolamide (50 mg/kg i.p. bolus followed by 25 mg/kg i.p. every second hour, n=3) influenced the brain/blood AUC ratio after alovudine 25 mg/kg s.c. injection compared to controls (n=5). Finally, perfusion through the microdialysis probe with thymidine (1000 microM, n=3) had also no effect on the brain/blood AUC ratio after alovudine 25 mg/kg s.c. Because neither thymidine nor acetazolamide has significant influence on the ability of alovudine to penetrate the blood-brain barrier in the rat, neither thymidine transport nor carboanhydrase dependent CSF production appear to be major determinants of the blood-brain concentration gradient. Thus, it is concluded that alovudine reaches the extracellular fluid of the brain not by cerebrospinal fluid, but via the cerebral capillaries and that the existence of a concentration gradient over both blood-brain and CSF-brain barrier can probably be explained by the presence of an active process pumping alovudine out from the brain.