Analogues of methotrexate (MTX) and aminopterin (AMT) modified at the gamma-position of the glutamate side chain were synthesized and evaluated as dihydrofolate reductase (DHFR) inhibitors and tumor cell growth inhibitors. Condesations of 4-amino-4-deoxy-N10-methylpteroic acid (mAPA) with dimethyl DL-4-methyleneglutamate in the presence of diethyl phosphorocyanidate (DEPC) followed by alkaline hydrolysis yielded N-(4-amino-4-deoxy-N10-methylpteroyl)-DL-4-methyleneglutamic acid (gamma-methyleneMTX). Condensation of 4-amino-4-deoxy-N10-formylpteroic acid (fAPA) with dimethyl-DL-4-methyleneglutamate by the mixed carboxylic-carbonic anhydride method yielded N-4-amino-4-deoxypteroyl)-DL-4-methyleneglutamic acid (gamma-methyleneAMT). Also prepared via DEPC coupling was a mixture of the four possible diastereomers of N-(4-amino-4-deoxy-N10-methylpteroyl)-4-cyanoglutamic acid (gamma-cyanoMTX). The requisite intermediate gamma-tert-butyl alpha-methyl 4-cyanoglutamate, as a DL-threo/DL-erythro mixture, was prepared from methyl N alpha-Boc-O-tosyl-L-serinate by reaction with sodium tert-butyl cyanoacetate followed by mild trifluoroacetic treatment to selectively remove the Boc group. The gamma-methylene derivatives of MTX and AMT are attractive because of their potential to act as Michael acceptors within the DHFR active site. gamma-CyanoMTX may be viewed as a congener of the nonpolyglutamated MTX analogue gamma-fluoroMTX. In vitro bioassay data for the gamma-methylene and gamma-cyano compounds support the idea that the active site of DHFR, already known for its ability to tolerate modification of the gamma-carboxyl group of MTX and AMT, can likewise accommodate substitution on the gamma-carbon itself.