Nitrobenzylthioinosine (NBMPR) binds reversibly, but with high affinity (Kd 0.1--1.2 nM), to inhibitory sites on nucleoside-transport elements of the plasma membrane in a variety of animal cells. The present study explored relationships in HeLa cells between NBMPR binding and inhibition of uridine transport. The Km value for inward transport of uridine by HeLa cells in both suspension and monolayer culture was about 0.1 mM. The affinity of the transport-inhibitory sites for uridine (Kd 1.7 mM), inosine (Kd 0.4 mM) and other nucleoside permeants was low relative to that for NBMPR. The pyrimidine homologue of NBMPR, nitrobenzylthiouridine, also exhibited low affinity for the NBMPR-binding sites. Pretreatment of HeLa cells with p-chloromercuribenzene sulphonate (p-CMBS) or N-ethylmaleimide (NEM) decreased binding of NBMPR to its high-affinity sites and inhibited uridine transport, indicating the presence of thiol groups essential to both processes. NEM, a more penetrable reagent than p-CMBS, inhibited binding and transport at much lower concentrations than the latter compound. Pretreatment of cells with concentrations of p-CMBS that alone had no effect on either NBMPR binding or uridine transport increased the sensitivity of transport to NBMPR inhibition and changed the shape of the NBMPR concentration-effect curve, suggesting synergistic inhibiton of uridine-transport activity by these two agents.