Effects of a 7-day treatment with the maturational agents DMF and sodium butyrate on enzymes of pyrimidine metabolism, growth rate and cell maturation were assessed in 5 human tumor cell lines, ARH-77 (myeloma), K-562 (chronic myeloid leukemia), KG-1 (myeloid leukemia), HL-60 (promyelocytic leukemia) and RWLy-1 (non-Hodgkin's lymphoma). DMF lengthened the doubling times of all five cell lines while sodium butyrate lengthened only those of K-562, HL-60 and RWLy-1. Full maturation was induced only in HL-60 by either agent and in K-562 by butyrate. Exposure resulted in a decreased activity of the anabolic enzyme orotate phosphoribosyltransferase (EC 22.214.171.124) and increased activities of the catabolic enzymes thymidine phosphorylase (EC 126.96.36.199) and dihydrouracil dehydrogenase (EC 188.8.131.52). Changes in the amphibolic enzyme, uridine phosphorylase (EC 184.108.40.206) did not follow any apparent pattern. This study indicates that the pattern of pyrimidine metabolism differs between the differentiated and slowly growing, and undifferentiated rapidly growing counterpart of several human tumors, suggesting that enzymes of pyrimidine metabolism can be used as markers for cellular growth and/or maturity. © 1987.