The zero-trans influx of 500 microM uridine by CHO, P388, L1210 and L929 cells was inhibited by nitrobenzylthioinosine ( NBTI ) in a biphasic manner; 60-70% of total uridine influx by CHO cells and about 90% of that in P388, L1210 and L929 cells was inhibited by nmolar concentrations of NBTI (ID50 = 3-10 nM) and is designated NBTI -sensitive transport. The residual transport activity, designated NBTI -resistant transport, was inhibited by NBTI only at concentrations above 1 microM (ID50 = 10-50 microM). S49 cells exhibited only NBTI -sensitive uridine transport, whereas Novikoff cells exhibited only NBTI -resistant uridine transport. In all instances NBTI -sensitive transport correlated with the presence of between 7 7 X 10(4) and 7 X 10(5) high-affinity NBTI binding sites/cell (Kd = 0.3-1 nM). Novikoff cells lacked such sites. The two types of nucleoside transport, NBTI -resistant and NBTI -sensitive, were indistinguishable in substrate affinity, temperature dependence, substrate specificity, inhibition by structurally unrelated substances, such as dipyridamole or papaverine, and inhibition by sulfhydryl reagents or hypoxanthine. We suggest, therefore, that a single nucleoside transporter can exist in an NBTI -sensitive and an NBTI -resistant form depending on its disposition in the plasma membrane. The sensitive form expresses a high-affinity NBTI binding site(s) which is probably made up of the substrate binding site plus a hydrophobic region which interacts with the lipophilic nitrobenzyl group of NBTI . The latter site seems to be unavailable in NBTI -resistant transporters. The proportion of NBTI -resistant and sensitive uridine transport was constant during proportion of NBTI -resistant and sensitive uridine transport was constant during progression of P388 cells through the cell cycle and independent of the growth stage of the cells in culture. There were additional differences in uridine transport between cell lines which, however, did not correlate with NBTI sensitivity and might be related to the species origin of the cells. Uridine transport in Novikoff cells was more sensitive to inhibition by dipyridamole and papaverine than that in all other cell lines tested, whereas uridine transport in CHO cells was the most sensitive to inactivation by sulfhydryl reagents.