To find general metabolic profiles of purine ribo- and deoxyribonucleotides in potato (Solanum tuberosum L.) plants, we looked at the in situ metabolic fate of various (14)C-labelled precursors in disks from growing potato tubers. The activities of key enzymes in potato tuber extracts were also studied. Of the precursors for the intermediates in de novo purine biosynthesis, [(14)C]formate, [2-(14)C]glycine and [2-(14)C]5-aminoimidazole-4-carboxyamide ribonucleoside were metabolised to purine nucleotides and were incorporated into nucleic acids. The rates of uptake of purine ribo- and deoxyribonucleosides by the disks were in the following order: deoxyadenosine > adenosine > adenine > guanine > guanosine > deoxyguanosine > inosine > hypoxanthine > xanthine > xanthosine. The purine ribonucleosides, adenosine and guanosine, were salvaged exclusively to nucleotides, by adenosine kinase (EC 126.96.36.199) and inosine/guanosine kinase (EC 188.8.131.52) and non-specific nucleoside phosphotransferase (EC 184.108.40.206). Inosine was also salvaged by inosine/guanosine kinase, but to a lesser extent. In contrast, no xanthosine was salvaged. Deoxyadenosine and deoxyguanosine, was efficiently salvaged by deoxyadenosine kinase (EC 220.127.116.11) and deoxyguanosine kinase (EC 18.104.22.168) and/or non-specific nucleoside phosphotransferase (EC 22.214.171.124). Of the purine bases, adenine, guanine and hypoxanthine but not xanthine were salvaged for nucleotide synthesis. Since purine nucleoside phosphorylase (EC 126.96.36.199) activity was not detected, adenine phosphoribosyltransferase (EC 188.8.131.52) and hypoxanthine/guanine phosphoribosyltransferase (EC 184.108.40.206) seem to play the major role in salvage of adenine, guanine and hypoxanthine. Xanthine was catabolised by the oxidative purine degradation pathway via allantoin. Activity of the purine-metabolising enzymes observed in other organisms, such as purine nucleoside phosphorylase (EC 220.127.116.11), xanthine phosphoribosyltransferase (EC 18.104.22.168), adenine deaminase (EC 22.214.171.124), adenosine deaminase (EC 126.96.36.199) and guanine deaminase (EC 188.8.131.52), were not detected in potato tuber extracts. These results suggest that the major catabolic pathways of adenine and guanine nucleotides are AMP --> IMP --> inosine --> hypoxanthine --> xanthine and GMP --> guanosine --> xanthosine --> xanthine pathways, respectively. Catabolites before xanthosine and xanthine can be utilised in salvage pathways for nucleotide biosynthesis.