In this study, we compared the relative abilities of human thymidylate synthase (hTS) and Escherichia coli thymidylate synthase (eTS) expression to confer resistance to the cytotoxic effects of treatment with the TS inhibitor 5-fluorodeoxyuridine (FdUrd). G418-selected clones expressing either form of the protein were significantly more resistant than the lacZ-expressing clone, VALZ2, to FdUrd-induced cytotoxicity. Although eTS-expressing clones expressed 2- to 3-fold more TS protein than hTS-overexpressing clones, the representative eTS-expressing clone, VAEG8, and hTS-overexpressing clone, VAHGC, were equally sensitive to an FdUrd-induced loss of clonogenicity; in addition, a large fraction of either form of exogenously expressed TS appeared to be inactive in the intact cell. The clones differed, however, in their responses to leucovorin (LV). Although LV significantly enhanced FdUrd-induced TS inhibition, growth inhibition, and cytotoxicity in VAHGC cells, it had no effect on these parameters in VAEG8 cells. These results suggest that eTS may more efficiently confer resistance to FdUrd plus LV when expressed for the purposes of a "host protection" strategy in vivo.