The effect of lamivudine on uptake of a representative organic cation, tetraethylammonium (TEA), by rat renal brush-border membrane vesicles (BBMV) and basolateral membrane vesicles (BLMV) has been investigated. The pH-driven uptake of TEA by BBMV (pHin = 6.0, pHout = 7.5) was inhibited by lamivudine. The IC50 value (concentration resulting in 50% inhibition) for the concentration-dependent effect of lamivudine on TEA uptake by BBMV after 30 s was 2668 microM whereas IC50 values for cimetidine and trimethoprim were < 2.5 microM and < 25 microM, respectively. The early uptake of TEA by BLMV was also reduced significantly by lamivudine. The IC50 value for the concentration-dependent effect of lamivudine on uptake of TEA by BLMV at 30 s was > 25 mM, whereas the IC50 values for cimetidine and trimethoprim were 2116 microM and 445 microM, respectively. These findings suggest that compared with other cationic drugs, such as trimethoprim and cimetidine, lamivudine is a weak inhibitor of organic cation transport into the tubules by the brush-border and basolateral membranes of renal epithelial cells. It is unlikely lamivudine will have any significant effect on the excretion of co-administered cationic drugs by the renal tubules.