Male Fischer 344 rats initiated with 1,2-dimethylhydrazine 2HCl (100 mg/kg) given 18 hr after partial hepatectomy and exposed to a diet containing 1% orotic acid for 13 months developed a 100% incidence of hepatocellular carcinoma. The creation of nucleotide pool imbalances by dietary orotic acid, for e.g., an increase in uridine nucleotides and a decrease in adenine nucleotides, was considered as a possible mechanism for the promotional effect of orotic acid on liver carcinogenesis. The significance of this hypothesis is that altered nucleotide pools affect both genomic as well as membrane organization. Consistent with this hypothesis is our finding that feeding rats with a diet containing 1% orotic acid for 10 weeks resulted in a liver DNA damage as monitored by its slower sedimentation in alkaline sucrose gradients compared to the corresponding controls. To assess the general applicability of this hypothesis, nucleotide pool imbalances were created by using methods other than feeding orotic acid and their effect on the incidence of gamma-glutamyltransferase positive foci in carcinogen initiated rats was determined. The results obtained indicated that rats initiated with 1,2-dimethylhydrazine.2HCl (100 mg/kg) given 18 hr after partial hepatectomy and exposed to diet deficient in arginine, a regimen that causes an increased synthesis and excretion of orotic acid, or were fed diets containing 1% thymidine or 1% thymine developed greater number of gamma-glutamyltransferase positive foci compared to the corresponding controls fed the basal diets. These results were interpreted to indicate that orotic acid exerts its promotional effect probably by creating an imbalance in nucleotide pools. One of the mechanisms by which an imbalance of nucleotide pools influences the pathogenesis of the carcinogenic process may be by inducing perturbations in the DNA.