A variety of imidazo[4,5-c]pyridines (3-deazapurines) were synthesized. With use of these aglycons as pentosyl acceptors, the corresponding ribonucleosides and 2'-deoxyribonucleosides were prepared by an enzymatic method involving transfer of the pentosyl moiety from appropriate pyrimidine nucleosides. With most of the imidazo[4,5-c]pyridines, the products obtained from the enzyme-catalyzed reactions were pentosylated exclusively in the 1-position. However, some 3-pentosylation occurred with aglycons that had H or N3 in the 4-position. In addition to the 2'-deoxy congener of the ribonucleoside of 4-amino-1H-imidazo[4,5-c]pyridine, the 5'-deoxy and 2',5'-dideoxy congeners were synthesized. All of the aglycons and their nucleosides were tested for toxicity to mammalian cells in culture. None were markedly cytotoxic. These compounds were also evaluated for their ability to inhibit lymphocyte-mediated cytolysis in vitro. 3-Deazaadenosine (23) and its 2'-deoxy congener (38) were the most potent inhibitors (ED50 = 20 microM). In addition to these two in vitro tests, in vivo inhibition of the inflammatory response in the rat carregeenan pleurisy model was determined. 3-Deazaadenosine (23) was the most potent compound (ED50 = 3 mg/kg) in this in vivo test.