Plasma membrane vesicles of HeLa cells are characterized by a drug-responsive oxidation of NADH. The NADH oxidation takes place in an argon or nitrogen atmosphere and in samples purged of oxygen. Direct assay of protein thiols by reaction with 5,5′-dithiobis-(2-nitrobenzoic acid) (DTNB; Ellman's reagent), suggests that protein disulfides may be the natural electron acceptors for NADH oxidation by the plasma membrane vesicles. In the presence of NADH, protein disulfides of the membranes were reduced with a concomitant stoichiometric increase in protein thiols. The increase in protein thiols was inhibited in parallel to the inhibition of NADH oxidation by the antitumor sulfonylurea LY181984 with an EC50 of ca. 30 nM. LY181984, with an EC50 of 30 nM, also inhibited a protein disulfide-thiol interchange activity based on the restoration of activity to inactive (scrambled) RNase and thiol oxidation. The findings suggest that thiol oxidation, NADH-dependent disulfide reduction (NADH oxidation), and protein disulfide-thiol interchange in the absence of NADH all may be manifestations of the same sulfonylurea binding protein of the HeLa plasma membrane. A surface location of the thiols involved was demonstrated using detergents and the impermeant thiol reagent p-chloromercuriphenylsulfonic acid (PCMPS). The surface location precludes a physiological role of the protein in NADH oxidation. Rather, it may carry out some other role more closely related to a function in growth, such as protein disulfide-thiol interchange coupled to cell enlargement.