Toyocamycin is an antitumor antibiotic which has a pyrrolo[2,3-D]pyrimidine aglycone with a -CN substituent on the 5-carbon. Treatment of HeLa cells with toyocamycin induces redistribution of the nuclear phosphoprotein nucleophosmin/B23 (NPM) from nucleoli to nucleoplasm (NPM-translocation) which can be detected by immunofluorescence. NPM-translocation is useful in showing drug effects and in detecting drug-resistant cancer cells. To study which structural features of toyocamycin are important for NPM-translocation, we used toyocamycin analogs in which the 5-position -CN was either deleted (tubercidin) or replaced with a -CONH2 (sangivamycin) or -C(NOH)NH2. HeLa cells were incubated with these analogs for 4 h and assayed for NPM-translocation by immunofluorescence. We found that the analog with the deletion of the -CN group (tubercidin) did not induce translocation while those with replacement of the -CN group with -CONH2 or -C(NOH)NH2 retained the NPM-translocation activity. When these or similar modifications were applied to 7-deazaguanosine, none of the guanosine analogs were effective. These results indicate that modifications at the 5-position of the pyrrolo[2,3-D]pyrimidine ring and a structure similar to adenine rather than guanine are essential for NPM-translocation. Since inhibition of RNA synthesis did not induce NPM-translocation, our results suggest that interference with NPM's binding in nucleoli by these analogs causes NPM-translocation.