Different classes of folate analogues have been examined with respect to the mechanism of their inhibition of dihydrofolate reductases from Escherichia coli and chicken liver. In addition, the degree of synergism between the binding of these compounds and NADPH has been investigated. Methotrexate acts as a slow, tight-binding inhibitor of both enzymes whereas trimethoprim is a slow, tight-binding inhibitor of the enzyme from E. coli and a classical inhibitor of the chicken-liver enzyme. Pyrimethamine, 2,4-diamino-6,7-dimethylpteridine, a phenyltriazine, folate and folinate exhibit classical inhibition. The degree of synergism between the binding of NADPH and the inhibitor varied from low for pyrimethamine and folate to very large for the phenyltriazine which binds to the chicken-liver enzyme almost 50 000-times more tightly in the presence of NADPH. The degree of synergism is reflected in the type of inhibition that the folate analogues yield with respect to NADPH. Compounds which exhibit slight synergism give noncompetitive inhibition whereas those with a high degree of synergism yield uncompetitive inhibition. With the exception of folinate, all compounds that act as classical inhibitors give rise to competitive inhibition with respect to dihydrofolate. Folinate exhibits competitive inhibition against NADPH and noncompetitive inhibition against dihydrofolate. These results are consistent with the formation of an enzyme-dihydrofolate-folinate complex. The (6S, alphaS)-diastereoisomer of folinate was bound at least 1000-times more tightly than the (6R, alphaS)-diastereoisomer. Consideration has been given to the possible interactions that occur between residues on the enzyme and groups on the inhibitor that give rise to slow-binding inhibition.