The incorporation of radioactive precursors into purine and pyrimidine nucleotides via 'de novo' and 'salvage' pathways was measured in normal lymphocytes, resting as well as proliferating, and lymphoblastic cell-line cells (MOLT-3). Lymphocytes stimulated with anti-CD3 were taken as actively proliferating lymphocytes (35% in the S-phase, 40 h after stimulation). The incorporation of the precursors in the purine and pyrimidine ribonucleotides was measured by a combination of anion-exchange high-performance liquid chromatography (HPLC) and on-line radioactivity measurement. The actively proliferating normal lymphocytes and MOLT-3 cells incorporated 30-500 times more of the various precursors in the ribonucleotides compared to normal resting lymphocytes. The imbalance in the nucleotide pool found in proliferating normal and lymphoblastic cells was reflected in the incorporation pattern of the various precursors. The activities of the branch-point enzymes IMP dehydrogenase and CTP synthetase most likely determine the differences in the composition of the nucleotide pools between resting and proliferating cells.