We studied the mechanism of anti-tumour action of sulphydryl glycoprotein (SAGP) purified from an extract of Streptococcus pyogenes in vitro. SAGP rapidly inhibited the incorporation of nucleic acid precursors into murine fibrosarcoma (Meth A) cells before it inhibited the cell growth. SAGP-induced cell growth inhibition was diminished by incubating the cells with pertussis toxin (IAP), whereas the SAGP activity was augmented by incubating the cells with cholera toxin (CTX). Meth A cells exposed to SAGP underwent an increase in labelling of the alpha-subunit of an inhibitory guanine nucleotide-binding (Gi) protein in a subsequent IAP-catalysed [32P]ADP ribosylation of the cell membrane fraction. Gi alpha labelling was not increased either in the membrane from the Meth A cells exposed to heat-inactivated SAGP or in the membrane from L929 cells exposed to SAGP, in which growth was also unaffected. By contrast, SAGP caused no alteration in labelling the alpha-subunit of stimulatory guanine nucleotide-binding (Gs) protein in a subsequent CTX-catalysed ADP ribosylation of membrane fractions of Meth A and L929 cells. The amount of intracellular cAMP was decreased slightly in Meth A cells incubated with SAGP. Although the precise roles of Gs protein and adenylate cyclase in the cell growth inhibition induced by SAGP are not clear, these findings suggested that the modulation of Gi protein is involved in such SAGP-induced cellular events as the inhibition of nucleic acid synthesis and cell growth inhibition.