Earlier results suggested that although the N-deoxyribosyltransferase from lactobacilli is a convenient tool for the preparation of analogs of 2'-deoxyadenosine, 8-substituted purines do not act as substrates. However, eight of nine 8-substituted purines that were examined proved to be substrates for the transferase from Lactobacillus leichmannii, and deoxyribonucleosides of four of these bases have been prepared. The substituents at C-8 of the purine greatly affect the rate of deoxyribosyl transfer to the base, and in all cases the rate is slower than transfer to purines lacking an 8-substituent. The 8-substituent also affects the nature of the nucleoside formed. With the electron-donating methyl group at position 8 of adenine, the transferase forms the expected 8-methyl-9-(2'-deoxyribofuranosyl)adenine. However, when purines bearing an electron-withdrawing substituent at the 8-position are used as substrates, the deoxyribosyl moiety is preferentially transferred to N-3 of the base. In the case of 8-trifluoromethyladenine the 3-deoxyribonucleoside is the only product detectable. With 8-bromo or 8-chloroadenine as substrate the 3- and 9-deoxyribonucleosides can both be isolated from the enzymatic reaction mixture. Time course studies indicated that with thymidine and 8-bromoadenine as substrates the 3-deoxyribonucleoside is initially the major product, but that the 9-deoxyribonucleoside becomes the major product after long incubation periods. Negligible interconversion of these nucleosides occurs in the absence of transferase, but conversion in either direction occurs readily in the presence of the enzyme. Significant hydrolysis of pyrimidine and purine deoxyribonucleosides occurs in the presence of the transferase. This was more obvious during the course of reactions involving 8-substituted purines because the slowness of deoxyribosyl transfer required longer incubation periods and larger amounts of enzyme. The hydrolysis is proportional to enzyme concentration, little affected by the nature of the base and is attributed to hydrolysis of a deoxyribosyl derivative of the transferase which is an obligatory intermediate of deoxyribosyl transfer. 8-Trifluoromethyl-3-(2'-deoxyribofuranosyl)adenine, 8-methyl-9-(2'-deoxyribofuranosyl)adenine, and 8-bromo-9-(2'-deoxyribofuranosyl)adenine were tested for their ability to inhibit the growth of CCRF-CEM cells in culture. Unlike the potent 2-halogeno-2'-deoxyadenosine derivatives, these three nucleosides cause less than 50% inhibition at concentrations up to 100 microM.