The present study uses the lysosomotropic drug chloroquine to investigate the mechanisms by which exogenous [35S]cystine is able to label the intracellular (intralysosomal) cystine pool(s) in cystinotic fibroblasts. When cystinotic fibroblasts were labelled for short periods of time (8 h or less), chloroquine (20 microM) inhibited the labelling of the intracellular cystine pool(s). However, when the cells were labelled for longer periods of time (24 h or more) chloroquine stimulated the labelling of the intracellular cystine pool(s). The short-term effect was selectively abolished when the cells were washed free of chloroquine, while the long-term effect was selectively abolished when the medium was depleted of cystine. Two routes of translocation of exogenous cystine to the lysosomes could be defined. One route was fast, had a low capacity, was inhibited by chloroquine and increased with increasing medium pH, while the other route was slow, had a high capacity, was stimulated by chloroquine and was more active at low pH. The former pathway probably consisted of plasma membrane transport of cystine into the cytosol followed by direct or indirect transport into the lysosomes. The latter route possibly consisted of pinocytosis with fusion of the cystine-containing pinosomes with lysosomes.