We have recently reported that methionine adenosyltransferase (MAT) in resting human peripheral blood T-cells is primarily present in the form of a precursor which we named lambda. This protein decreases upon cell stimulation, as both MAT activity and the amount of the catalytic alpha/alpha' subunits of the enzyme increase. When resting cells are activated by phytohemagglutinin, the decrease in lambda and increase in alpha/alpha' occurs after interleukin 2 (IL-2) production and before DNA synthesis. The human T-leukemia cell line, Jurkat, is unique in its ability to produce IL-2 in response to exogenous stimuli such as T-cell mitogens and therefore provides a convenient model for studying biochemical reactions involved in T-cell activation. In this study the regulation of MAT activity and S-adenosylmethionine (AdoMet) in resting and activated Jurkat cells was investigated. Here we report that MAT activity in unstimulated Jurkat cells is about 10- and 3-fold higher than the activity in resting and activated peripheral blood mononuclear cells, respectively. Activation of Jurkat cells with phytohemagglutinin resulted in increased IL-2-production, but not an increase in MAT activity. Identical results were obtained using freshly isolated cells from acute lymphoblastic leukemia patients. AdoMet utilization and pool size were approximately 3- and 10-fold higher, respectively, in Jurkat cells compared to peripheral blood mononuclear cells, and both parameters were unaffected by phytohemagglutinin stimulation. Jurkat MAT was determined to be structurally indistinguishable from enzyme from T- or B-leukemia cells but was different from resting, normal T-cells in that it lacked the lambda form. Furthermore, unlike MAT in resting T-cells, the relative amounts of the alpha, alpha', and beta subunits of the enzyme did not change throughout the course of IL-2 induction. We conclude that AdoMet metabolism and MAT activity in Jurkat cells are constitutively high and that induction of IL-2 synthesis in these cells is independent of changes in AdoMet synthesis or turnover. The lack of the lambda form and the difference in MAT regulation between leukemic T-cells and peripheral blood mononuclear cells may be exploited in the design of specific chemotherapeutic agents.