Bromodeoxyuridine (BrdUrd), a thymidine analogue incorporated into DNA, can be quantified by fluorescent or chromophoric quenching of dyes bound to DNA or with antibodies to BrdUrd. These technologies have been used since the 1970s as tools for measuring DNA synthesis in isolated chromosomes and in cells and tissues. This paper is Part I of a three-part comprehensive review of the literature over the last 20 years (to the end of 1993) describing the histochemical methods for measuring BrdUrd in cells and tissues. Fixation, denaturation and staining procedures are compared for quantifying BrdUrd for microscopy and flow cytometry. Non-immunochemical methods related to the quenching of fluorescent DNA stains by BrdUrd are also described. Methods are described for the comparative assay of cell kinetic parameters by tritiated thymidine and bromodeoxyuridine. The multivariate BrdUrd/DNA assay of Ts and Tc, and a comparison of recent methods based on the single biopsy bivariate analysis of Tpot, is presented. Recent developments in the use of double halopyrimidine label to determine kinetic parameters are also reviewed.