The mechanism of the intestinal transport of enoxacin, an orally active fluoroquinolone antibiotic, has been investigated using brush-border membrane vesicles isolated from rat small intestine. The initial rate and time-course of enoxacin uptake were considerably dependent upon the medium pH (pH 5.5 greater than pH 7.5) and upon the percent ionization of the carboxyl group (pKa 6.2, anionic charge), namely, the degree of uptake of cationic form was higher than that of the zwitterionic form. There was evidence of transport into the intravesicular space as shown by the effect of extravesicular medium osmolarity on enoxacin uptake at steady state (30 min). This transport across the brush-border membrane was stimulated by the valinomycin-induced K(+)-diffusion potential (interior negative) and an outward H(+)-diffusion potential. Furthermore, changing the pH of the medium from 5.5 to 7.5 significantly decreased the effect of valinomycin-induced K(+)-diffusion potential on the enoxacin uptake. These results suggest that the uptake behaviour of the cationic form of enoxacin plays an important role in the intestinal absorption process of enoxacin.