The effects of adenine nucleotides on phosphoenolypyruvate carboxylase were investigated using purified enzyme from the CAM plant, Crassula argentea. At 1 millimolar total concentration and with limiting phosphoenolpyruvate, AMP had a stimulatory effect, lowering the K(m) for phosphoenolpyruvate, ADP caused less stimulation, and ATP decreased the activity by increasing the K(m) for phosphoenolpyruvate. Activation by AMP was not additive to the stimulation by glucose 6-phosphate. Furthermore, AMP increased the K(a) for glucose 6-phosphate. Inhibition by ATP was competitive with phosphoenolpyruvate. In support of the kinetic data, fluorescence binding studies indicated that ATP had a stronger effect than AMP on phosphoenolpyruvate binding, while AMP was more efficient in reducing glucose 6-phosphate binding. As free Mg(2+) was held constant and saturating, these effects cannot be ascribed to Mg(2+) chelation. Accordingly, the enzyme response to the adenylate energy charge was basically of the "R" type (involving enzymes of ATP regenerating sequences) according to D. E. Atkinson's (1968 Biochemistry 7: 4030-4034) concept of energy charge regulation. The effect of energy charge was abolished by 1 millimolar glucose 6-phosphate. Levels of glucose 6-phosphate and of other putative regulatory compounds of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase were determined in total leaf extracts during a day-night cycle. The level of glucose 6-phosphate rose at night and dropped sharply during the day. Such a decrease in glucose 6-phosphate concentration could permit an increased control of phosphoenolpyruvate carboxylase by energy charge during the day.