We investigated whether cardiomyocytes express specific albumin binding proteins (ABP) which may function in the dissociation of fatty acids from their non-covalent complexes with albumin. The experiments were performed on rat neonatal cardiomyocytes (freshly isolated and up to 3 days in culture) and on an enriched sarcolemmal fraction isolated from adult rabbit ventricular myocardium. Three types of experiments were conducted: (a) identification of ABP on electroblots of cardiomyocytes and sarcolemmal extracts reacted with [125I]-bovine serum albumin ([125I]Alb); (b) kinetic assays of [125I]Alb interaction with cardiomyocytes (at 37 degrees C), and with a sarcolemmal fraction (at 4 degrees C); (c) affinity isolation of ABP from solubilized radioiodinated sarcolemmal proteins interacted with an albumin-agarose matrix. The investigation showed that: first, two pairs of polypeptides (ABP of M(r) 18 and 31 kDa) in either cardiomyocytes or sarcolemmal fraction reacted on electroblots with [125I]Alb; second, the binding of the latter to cardiomyocytes was saturable and competed by unlabeled albumin: 50 microM albumin reduced by approximately 90% the binding of radiolabeled albumin. The sarcolemmal fraction bound [125I]Alb with a Kd of 3.66 x 10(-7) M. Thirdly, among the sarcolemmal proteins retained by the albumin-agarose matrix (18 and 31 kDa), the most prominent was the lower band (approximately 16 kDa) of the 18 kDa pair of ABP. The observations revealed that albumin interacts with relatively high affinity with specific binding sites on cardiomyocyte sarcolemma. This interaction may be a recognition step for subsequent fatty acid dissociation and translocation.