Sensitive high-performance liquid chromatography methods were employed to assess regional distribution of adenine, guanosine and uridine nucleotides in clear and cataractous human eye lenses. According to slit-lamp examination, three forms of senile cataract were distinguished: (1) supranuclear or deep cortical cataract (typical senile cataract), (2) primary nuclear cataract (cataracta brunescens) and (3) subcapsular cortical cataract associated either with a supranuclear (3a) or a secondary nuclear cataract (3b). Except for AMP, which was highest in the nuclear fraction, all other nucleotides (ATP, ADP, GTP, and UTP) were predominantly located in the anterior cortex (plus epithelium) of clear as well as cataractous lenses, that is, ATP levels in the nucleus amounted to 20% of those found in the anterior cortex (plus epithelium); ATP levels in the posterior cortex were about 60% of those in the anterior cortex (plus epithelium). Significant differences in the absolute regional nucleotide level existed between the different forms of cataract. Highest ATP levels were found in the anterior cortex (plus epithelium) of clear lenses and deep or supranuclear cortical cataract. The ATP level was slightly diminished in primary nuclear cataract and in supranuclear cortical cataract when associated with an early subcapsular cortical cataract. ATP levels were depressed to less than 30% in the anterior cortex (plus epithelium) of lenses with a subcapsular cortical cataract when associated with either an early secondary nuclear or a mature cataract. Furthermore, the ATP/ADP ratio was decreased in this form of senile cataract. The decrease in lens nucleotide level did not correlate with increased age. These data suggest that decreases in regional ATP level are a secondary event and do not appear to be causally involved in the genesis of the 'cataracta senilis'.