Purine and pyrimidine nucleotides participate in many biochemical processes in plants. They are building blocks for nucleic acid synthesis, an energy source, precursors for the synthesis of primary products, such as sucrose, polysaccharides, phospholipids, as well as secondary products. Therefore, biosynthesis and metabolism of nucleotides are of fundamental importance in the growth and development of plants. Nucleotides are synthesized both from amino acids and other small molecules via de novo pathways, and from preformed nucleobases and nucleosides by salvage pathways. In this article the biosynthesis, interconversion and degradation of purine and pyrimidine nucleotides in higher plants are reviewed. This description is followed by an examination of physiological aspects of nucleotide metabolism in various areas of growth and organized development in plants, including embryo maturation and germination, in vitro organogenesis, storage organ development and sprouting, leaf senescence, and cultured plant cells. The effects of environmental factors on nucleotide metabolism are also described. This review ends with a brief discussion of molecular studies on nucleotide synthesis and metabolism.