During germination and early growth of the castor bean (Ricinus communis) nitrogenous constituents from the endosperm are transferred via the cotyledons to the growing embryo. Exudate collected from the cut hypocotyl of 4-day seedlings contained 120 millimolar soluble amino nitrogen and glutamine was the predominant amino acid present, comprising 35 to 40% of the total amino nitrogen. To determine the nature of nitrogen transfer, the endosperm and hypocotyl were removed and glutamine uptake by the excised cotyledons was investigated. Uptake was linear for at least 2 hours and the cotyledons actively accumulated glutamine against a concentration gradient. The uptake was sensitive to respiratory inhibitors and uncouplers and efflux of glutamine from the excised cotyledons was negligible. Transport was specific for the l-isomer. Other neutral amino acids were transported at similar rates to glutamine. Except for histidine, the acidic and basic amino acids were transported at lower rates than the neutral amino acids. For glutamine transport, the K(m) was 11 to 12 millimolar and the V(max) was 60 to 70 micromoles per gram fresh weight per hour. Glutamine uptake was diminished in the presence of other amino acids and the extent of inhibition was greatest for those amino acids which were themselves rapidly transported into the cotyledons. The transport of amino acids, on a per seedling basis, was greatest for cotyledons from 4-to 6-day seedlings, when transfer of nitrogen from the endosperm is also maximal. It is concluded that the castor bean cotyledons are highly active absorptive organs transporting both sucrose and amino acids from the surrounding endosperm at high rates.