The effects of temperature on the binding kinetics of phenytoin (PHT) to serum proteins were determined in patients with epilepsy. Serum samples examined in the study were obtained from 59 patients (31 male, 28 female) with epilepsy on PHT monotherapy. Their age ranged from 3 to 64 years (mean (SD), 23.3 (16.3) years). Protein binding of PHT was evaluated by ultrafiltration under current routine laboratory conditions (25 +/- 3 degrees C) or at a temperature of 37 degrees C. The in vivo binding parameters of PHT to serum proteins were determined using a binding equation derived from the Scatchard equation for a one-site binding model. Significant differences were observed in serum concentrations of unbound PHT between paired data (P < 0.05). The mean association constant (K) of PHT to serum proteins is 0.011 microM-1 at 25 +/- 3 degrees C and 0.006 microM-1 at 37 degrees C, while mean total concentration of binding sites (n(Pt)) is 1002 microM for 25 +/- 3 degrees C and 1112 microM for 37 degrees C. Significant differences were observed in the binding kinetics of PHT to serum proteins for the different temperature conditions of ultrafiltration (P < 0.05). Our study confirms that binding affinity for PHT-serum protein interaction is approximately 45% lower at 37 degrees C than at 25 +/- 3 degrees C and consequently, binding potential (K.n(Pt)) is approximately 39% lower at 37 degrees C than at 25 +/- 3 degrees C.