In contrast to wild-type strains of the yeast Saccharomyces cerevisiae, lys2 and lys5 mutants are able to utilize alpha-aminoadipate as a primary source of nitrogen. Chattoo et al. (B. B. Chattoo, F. Sherman, D. A. Azubalis, T. A. Fjellstedt, D. Mehnert, and M. Ogur, Genetics 93:51-65, 1979) relied on this difference in the effective utilization of alpha-aminoadipate to develop a procedure for directly selecting lys2 and lys5 mutants. In this study we used a range of mutant strains and various media to determine why normal strains are unable to utilize alpha-aminoadipate as a nitrogen source. Our results demonstrate that the anabolism of high levels of alpha-aminoadipate through the biosynthetic pathway of lysine results in the accumulation of a toxic intermediate and, furthermore, that lys2 and lys5 mutants contain blocks leading to the formation of this intermediate.