Glutamine phosphoribosylpyrophosphate (PRPP) amidotransferase catalysis and regulation were studied using a new stable carbocyclic analog of PRPP, 1-alpha-pyrophosphoryl-2-alpha, 3-alpha-dihydroxy-4-beta-cyclopentane-methanol-5-phosphate (cPRPP). Although cPRPP competes with PRPP for binding to the catalytic C site of the Escherichia coli enzyme, two lines of evidence demonstrate that cPRPP, unlike PRPP, does not promote an active enzyme conformation. First, cPRPP was not able to "activate" Cys1 for reaction with glutamine or a glutamine affinity analog. The ring oxygen of PRPP may thus be necessary for the conformation change that activates Cys1 for catalysis. Second, binding of cPRPP to the C site blocks binding of AMP and GMP, nucleotide end product inhibitors, to this site. However, the binding of nucleotide to the allosteric site was essentially unaffected by cPRPP in the C site. Since it is expected that nucleotide inhibitors would bind with low affinity to the active enzyme conformation, the nucleotide binding data support the conclusion that cPRPP does not activate the enzyme.