A liquid culture system for culturing detached spikes of barley (Hordeum vulgare L.) at different nutritional levels was established. The synthesis of hordein polypeptides was studied by pulse-labeling with [14C]sucrose at different stages of development and nitrogen (N) nutrition. All polypeptides were synthesised at 10 d after anthesis and hercafter an increase was observed for all polypeptides. A fivefold increase in total hordein was observed within the N range tested. Hordein-1 increased considerably more than hordein-2 with increased N nutrition, and hordein-1 synthesis exceeded that of hordein-2 at the highest N level 20 and 25 d after anthesis. Hordein-1 thus appears to act as the main N sink at high N levels. The synthesis of the major groups of hordein-2 polypeptides responded differently to increasing N in that the slower-migrating polypeptides increased more with increasing N than the faster-migrating polypeptides.