Stopped flow spectrophotometry was used to investigate the kinetics of the transition of the phosphoglycerate dehydrogenase (3-phosphoglycerate: NAD oxidoreductase, EC 22.214.171.124) reaction from the active to the inhibited rate upon the addition of the physiological inhibitor serine. The transition was characterized by a single first order rate constant (kobs,i) which was independent of enzyme concentration. At pH 8.5, kobs,i increased in a hyperbolic manner with serine concentration from 2 to 8 s-1. The increase in kobs,i occurred at serine concentrations where the steady state inhibition was virtually complete. These results indicate that serine inhibition is an allosteric process involving a conformational change in the enzyme. A model is presented in which serine at low concentrations binds exclusively to the inhibited state of the enzyme and shifts the equilibrium toward that state; at high serine concentrations, serine binds to the active state, facilitating its conversion to the inhibited state. An alternative model, which we favor, proposes two classes of inhibitor binding sites. The kinetics of the fluorescence quenching of enzyme-bound NADH by serine (Sugimoto, E., and Pizer, L.I. (1968) J. Biol. Chem. 243, 2090-2098), measured by stopped flow fluorimetry, was also characterized by a single first order rate constant (kobs,f.q.) which was independent of enzyme concentration. At pH 8.5, kobs,f.q. ranged from 0.4 s-1 at low serine concentrations to 1.1 s-1 at high serine concentrations. These results indicate that the fluorescence quenching induced by serine is a manifestation of a structural change in the enzyme. Enzyme and excess NADH were mixed with substrate and serine in the stopped flow instrument, and enzyme-bound NADH fluorescence was monitored by exciting through the protein at 285 nm. A rapid fluorescence quenching process, which occurred within the mixing time, was followed by a slower fluorescence enhancement process which terminated in a steady state level corresponding to the quenched fluorescence of the enzyme NADH serine complex. The rapid quenching was the result of substrate binding (Dubrow, R., and Pizer, L.I. (1977) J. Biol. Chem. 252, 1539-1551). The fluorescence enhancement was characterized by a single first order rate constant whose value for a given serine concentration corresponded with Kobs,j. This data shows that the quenched state of the enzyme-NADH-complex is the state which is directly responsible for the inhibition of enzyme activity. During catalysis the quenched state is achieved from a different initial conformation, and consequently at a different rate, than in the absence of substrate. kobs,j and kobs,f.q. were also measured using glycine, another inhibitor. The ultraviolet difference spectrum between enzyme and enzyme plus serine was determined and proposed to be the result of the same structural change which is responsible for the fluorescence quenching by serine.