Deoxycytidine kinase (dCK) catalyzes the rate-limiting step of the deoxynucleoside salvage pathway in mammalian cells and plays a key role in the activation of several pharmacologically important nucleoside analogs. Using a highly specific polyclonal antibody raised against a C-terminal peptide of the human dCK, we analyzed its subcellular localization by Western blots of biochemically fractionated nuclear and cytoplasmic fractions as well as by in situ immunochemistry. Native dCK was found to be located mainly in the cytoplasm in several cell types, and the enzyme was more concentrated in the perinuclear and cellular membrane area. In contrast, when dCK was overexpressed in the cells, it was mainly located in the nucleus. The results demonstrate that native dCK is a cytoplasmic enzyme. However, it has the ability to enter the nucleus under certain conditions, suggesting the existence of a cytoplasmic retention mechanism that may have an important function in the regulation of the deoxynucleoside salvage pathway.