Previous studies from this laboratory have shown that mitochondrial bound hexokinase is markedly elevated in highly glycolytic hepatoma cells (Parry, D. M., and Pedersen, P.L. (1983) J. Biol. Chem. 258, 10904-10912). A pore-forming protein, porin, within the outer membrane appears to comprise at least part of the receptor site (Nakashima, R.A., Mangan, P.S., Colombini, M., and Pedersen, P.L. (1986). Biochemistry 25, 1015-1021). In studies reported here experiments were carried out to assess the functional significance of mitochondrial bound tumor hexokinase. Two approaches were used to determine whether the bound enzyme has preferred access to mitochondrially generated ATP relative to cytosolic ATP. The first approach compared the time course of glucose 6-phosphate formation by AS-30D hepatoma mitochondria under conditions where ATP was regenerated endogenously via oxidative phosphorylation or exogenously by added pyruvate kinase and phosphoenolpyruvate. The second approach involved the measurement of the specific radioactivity of glucose 6-phosphate formed following the addition of [gamma-32P]ATP to either phosphorylating or nonphosphorylating AS-30D mitochondria. Both approaches provided results which show that the source of ATP for bound hexokinase is derived preferentially from the ATP synthase residing within the inner mitochondrial membrane compartment rather than from the medium (i.e. from the cytosolic compartment). These results provide the first direct demonstration that the exceptionally high level of hexokinase bound to mitochondria of highly glycolytic tumor cells has preferred access to mitochondrially generated ATP, a finding that may have rather profound metabolic significance for such tumors.