A recent model for the role of chromium in insulin signaling requires that the oligopeptide low-molecular-weight chromium-binding substance (LMWCr) tightly bind four chromic ions before the oligopeptide obtains a conformation required for binding to the tyrosine kinase active site of the insulin receptor. To test this model, the chromium-binding constant of LMWCr was determined, and the ability of LMWCr to remove chromium from Cr2-transferrin and the nutritional supplement chromium picolinate, Cr(pic)3, was examined. These results are consistent with the model of the mode of action of LMWCr; a Hill study indicates the four chromic ions bind to apoLMWCr in a highly cooperative fashion (n =3.47) with a binding constant of 1.54x 10(21). Chromium is readily transferred from transferrin to apoLMWCr at near neutral pH. The results also suggest that reduction of the chromic center of Cr(pic)3 may be required for the supplement to release chromium; thus, release of chromium is related to a mechanism by which Cr(pic)3 may generate hydroxyl radicals in cells.