Cytosolic adenosine 5'-triphosphate (ATP) modifies the properties of human red cell sugar transport. This interaction has been examined by analysis of substrate-induced sugar transporter intrinsic fluorescence quenching and by determination of Michaelis and velocity constants for D-glucose transport in red cell ghosts and inside-out vesicles lacking and containing ATP. When excited at 295 nm, human erythrocyte ghosts stripped of peripheral proteins display an emission spectrum characterized by a scattering peak and a single emission peak centered at about 333 nm. Addition of sugar transport substrate or cytochalasin B and phloretin (sugar transport inhibitors) reduces emission peak height by 10% and 5%, respectively. Cytochalasin B induced quenching is a simple saturable phenomenon with an apparent Kd (app Kd) of 60 nM and a capacity of 1.4 nmol of sites/mg of membrane protein. Quenching by D-glucose (and other transported sugars) is characterized by at least two (high and low) app Kd parameters. Inhibitor studies indicate that these sites correspond to sugar efflux and influx sites, respectively, and that both sites can exist simultaneously. ATP induces quenching of stripped ghost fluorescence with half-maximal effects at 20-30 microM ATP. ATP reduces the low app Kd and increases the high app Kd for sugar-induced fluorescence quenching. D-Glucose transport in intact red cells is asymmetric (Km and Vmax for influx less than Km and Vmax for efflux). In addition, two operational Km parameters for efflux are detected in zero- and infinite-trans efflux conditions. Protein-mediated sugar transport in ghosts and inside-out vesicles (IOVs) is symmetric with respect to Km and Vmax for entry and exit, and only one Km for exit is detected. Addition of millimolar levels of ATP to the interior of ghosts or to the exterior of IOVs restores both transport asymmetry and two operational Km parameters for native efflux. A model for red cell hexose transport is proposed in which ATP modifies the catalytic properties of the transport system. This model mimics the behavior of the sugar transport systems of intact cells, ghosts, and inside-out vesicles.