Cellular requirements for iron during DNA synthesis are related to the increased activity of the iron-containing M2 subunit of ribonucleotide reductase, the enzyme responsible for the reduction of ribonucleotides to deoxyribonucleotides. We have previously shown that transferrin- gallium (Tf-Ga) inhibits cellular iron incorporation. In the present study, Tf-Ga-induced inhibition of HL60 cell growth and upregulation of Tf receptor density was reversed with hemin. Cells exposed to 2 mumol/L Tf-Ga for six hours or longer displayed a diminution in the electron spin resonance (ESR) spectroscopy signal of the tyrosyl radical of the M2 subunit of ribonucleotide reductase. The effect of Tf-Ga on the ESR signal was reversed by hemin. Tf-Ga decreased the incorporation of 14C- adenosine into DNA and decreased intracellular deoxyribonucleotide pools, with the maximum diminution seen in deoxyadenosine triphosphate (dATP) and deoxycytidine triphosphate (dCTP) pools. Exposure of cells to combinations of Tf-Ga and hydroxyurea (a known inhibitor of ribonucleotide reductase) resulted in a marked inhibition of cell growth that was consistent with drug synergy. Our studies suggest that Tf-Ga inhibits DNA synthesis through action on the M2 subunit of ribonucleotide reductase and that combinations of Ga and hydroxyurea should be further evaluated in in vivo tumor models.