The purpose of this study was to improve the application of bromodeoxyuridine (BrdUrd) for the flow cytometric analysis of cell kinetics. In order to obtain a quantitative measure of the DNA synthesis rate (or the number of divided cells), BrdUrd should replace thymidine (dThd) completely in the newly synthesized DNA strands. The de novo synthesis of dThd monophosphate competing with BrdUrd incorporation was stopped by fluorodeoxyuridine (FdUrd). Cells of a human leukemic cell line (REH) were exposed to BrdUrd for either 20 min, 8 h, or 24 h. Bromodeoxyuridine incorporation was determined by a monoclonal antibody as well as by the BrdUrd/Hoechst (H) technique. Counterstaining of the DNA was performed with propidium iodide or ethidium bromide. DNA fluorescence was measured in both techniques with a two-parameter flow cytometer, the histograms being analyzed by computer. It was found that FdUrd is required in the BrdUrd/H technique for replacement of dThd at low BrdUrd concentrations and long incubation times. With short incubation periods, as used for detection by the monoclonal anti-BrdUrd antibody, FdUrd increases the incorporated BrdUrd amount when BrdUrd concentrations of 10 microM or less are applied.