Folic acid exists in mammalian cells with a poly-gamma-glutamate tail that may regulate the flux of folates through the various cellular pathways. The substrate polyglutamate specificity of methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase from pig liver has been examined by using a competitive method and measuring apparent tritium kinetic isotope effects on Vmax/Km for methylenetetrahydrofolate. This competitive method yields very accurate ratios of Km values for alternate substrates of an enzyme and may also be applied to reactions with no isotope effect. In combination with published data from our own and other laboratories, the kinetic parameters of methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase were used to calculate the initial velocities of pig liver methylenetetrahydrofolate dehydrogenase, thymidylate synthase, and methylenetetrahydrofolate reductase, at physiological concentrations of substrates and enzymes. These calculations suggest that the cellular concentration of methylenetetrahydrofolate may regulate the flux of this metabolite into the pathways leading to nucleotide biosynthesis and methionine regeneration. An increase in the cellular level of methylenetetrahydrofolate would permit more one-carbon units to be directed toward nucleotide biosynthesis.