Expression of the vacuolar carboxypeptidase S (CPS1) gene in Saccharomyces cerevisiae is regulated by the availability of nutrients. Enzyme production is sensitive to nitrogen catabolite repression; i.e. the presence of ammonium ions maintains expression of the gene at a low level. Transfer of ammonium-glucose pre-grown cells to a medium deprived of nitrogen causes a drastic increase in CPS1 RNA level provided that a readily usable carbon source, such as glucose or fructose, is available to the cells. Derepression of the gene by nitrogen limitation is cycloheximide-insensitive. Neither glycerol, ethanol, acetate nor galactose support derepression of CPS1 expression under nitrogen starvation conditions. Non-metabolizable sugar analogs (2-deoxyglucose, 6-methyl-glucose or glucosamine) do not allow derepression of CPS1, showing that the process is energy-dependent. Production of carboxypeptidase yscS also increases several-fold when ammonium-pregrown cells are transferred to media containing glucose and a non-readily metabolizable nitrogen source such as proline, leucine, valine or leucyl-glycine. Analysis of CPS1 expression in RAS2+ (high cAMP) and ras2 mutant (low cAMP) strains and in cells grown at low temperature (23 degrees C) and in heat-shocked cells (38 degrees C) shows that steady-state levels of CPS1 mRNA are not controlled by a low cAMP level-signalling pathway.