The effects of ethoxyzolamide (EZ), a carbonic anhydrase inhibitor, on the active CO2 and Na+-independent and Na+-dependent HCO3- transport systems of the unicellular cyanobacterium Synechococcus sp. UTEX 625 were examined. Measurements of transport and accumulation using radiochemical, fluorometric, and mass spectrometric assays indicated that active CO2 transport and active Na+-independent HCO3- transport were inhibited by EZ. However, Na+-independent HCO3- transport was about 1 order of magnitude more sensitive to EZ inhibition than was CO2 transport (50% inhibition = 12 [mu]M versus 80 [mu]M). The data suggest that both the active CO2 (G.D. Price, M.R. Badger  Plant Physiol 89: 37-43) and the Na+ -independent HCO3 - transport systems possessed carbonic anhydrase-like activity as part of their mechanism of action. In contrast, Na+-dependent HCO3- transport was only partially (50% inhibition = 230 [mu]M) and noncompetitively inhibited by EZ. The collective evidence suggested that EZ inhibition of Na+ -dependent HCO3- transport was an indirect consequence of the action of EZ on the CO2 transport system, rather than a direct effect on HCO3- transport. A model is presented in which the core of the inorganic carbon translocating system is formed by Na+-dependent HCO3- transport and the CO2 transport system. It is argued that the Na+-independent HCO3 - utilizing system was not directly involved in translocation, but converted HCO3- to CO2 for use in CO2 transport.