The efflux transport of oestrone-3-sulphate, a steroid hormone sulphate, across the blood-cerebrospinal fluid barrier has been examined following its intracerebroventricular administration. [3H]Oestrone-3-sulphate was eliminated from cerebrospinal fluid (CSF) with an apparent efflux clearance of 205 microL min(-1) per rat. There was 25% of unmetabolized [3H]oestrone-3-sulphate in the plasma 5 min after intracerebroventricular administration, indicating that at least a part of [3H]oestrone-3-sulphate is transported from CSF to the circulating blood across the blood-CSF barrier. This efflux transport was inhibited by co-administration of excess oestrone-3-sulphate (25 mM 10 microL = 0.25 micromol) into rat cerebral ventricle. To characterize the oestrone-3-sulphate transport process, an in-vitro uptake experiment was performed using isolated rat choroid plexus. Oestrone-3-sulphate uptake by isolated rat choroid plexus was found to be a saturable process with a Michaelis-Menten constant (Km) of 18.1 +/- 6.3 microM, and a maximum uptake rate (Vmax) of 48.0 +/- 15.1 pmol min(-1) microL(-1) of tissue. The oestrone-3-sulphate transport process was temperature dependent and was inhibited by metabolic inhibitors such as 2,4-dinitrophenol and rotenone, suggesting an energy dependence. This uptake process was also inhibited by steroid hormone sulphates (1 mM dehydroepiandrosterone sulphate and 1 mM oestrone sulphate), bile acids (1 mM taurocholic acid and 1 mM cholic acid) and organic anions (1 mM sulphobromophthalein and 1 mM phenolsulphonphthalein), whereas 1 mM p-aminohippuric acid, 1 mM p-nitrophenol sulphate, 0.1 mM methotrexate and the cardiac glycoside, 2.5 microM digoxin, had little effect. In conclusion, these results provide evidence that oestrone-3-sulphate is transported from CSF to the circulating blood across the blood-CSF barrier via a carrier-mediated efflux transport system.