In the present study, one has determined the relative role of plasma membrane equilibrative (Na+-independent) ENT nucleoside transport proteins (particularly ENT2) in the uptake of antiviral nucleoside analogues for comparison with the previously reported drug transport properties of concentrative (Na+-dependent) CNT nucleoside transport proteins. The human and rat nucleoside transport proteins hENT1, rENT1, hENT2 and rENT2 were produced in Xenopus oocytes and investigated for their ability to transport three 3'-deoxy-nucleoside analogues, ddC (2'3'-dideoxycytidine), AZT (3'-azido-3'-deoxythymidine) and ddI (2'3'-dideoxyinosine), used in human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) therapy. The results show, for the first time, that the ENT2 transporter isoform represents a mechanism for cellular uptake of these clinically important nucleoside drugs. Recombinant h/rENT2 transported ddC, ddI and AZT, whilst h/rENT1 transported only ddC and ddI. Relative to uridine, h/rENT2 mediated substantially larger fluxes of ddC and ddI than h/rENT1. Transplanting the amino-terminal half of rENT2 into rENT1 rendered rENT1 transport-positive for AZT and enhanced the uptake of both ddC and ddI, identifying this region as a major site of 3'-deoxy-nucleoside drug interaction.