Adenosine production in intact rat polymorphonuclear leucocytes was studied during 2-deoxyglucose-induced ATP catabolism. A cell-free system containing the cytosolic 5'-nucleotidase (EC 188.8.131.52) as the only phosphohydrolase was also studied. The rate of adenosine formation in both intact cells and the cell-free system showed a similar dependence on energy charge (([ATP] + 1/2 [ADP]/([ATP] + [ADP] + [AMP])), being maximal only at values close to 0.8. Sufficient cytosolic 5'-nucleotidase was present in intact cells to explain the observed rate of adenosine formation. We conclude that the cytosolic 5'-nucleotidase is responsible for adenosine production in rat polymorphonuclear leucocytes. This mechanism provides a direct biochemical link between the energy status of a cell and the rate of adenosine formation.