The kinetics of the binding of mebendazole (MBZ) to tubulin from the third-stage (L3) larvae of the parasitic nematode, Haemonchus contortus, have been characterized. In partially purified preparations, the association of [3H]MBZ to nematode tubulin was rapid, k1 = (2.6 +/- 0.3) x 10(5) M-1 min-1, but dissociation was slow, k-1 = (1.58 +/- 0.02) x 10(-3) min-1. The affinity constant (K(a)) for the interaction, determined by the ratio k1/k-1, was (1.6 +/- 0.2) x 10(8) M-1. Similar results were obtained with crude cytosolic fractions. In equilibrium studies, performed with partially purified nematode tubulin under similar conditions, a K(a) of (5.3 +/- 1.6) x 10(6) M-1 was obtained. The best estimate for the K(a) of the MBZ-nematode tubulin interaction is considered to be the 'kinetic' value determined from the ratio of rate constants. The slow dissociation of MBZ from nematode tubulin, which contrasts with the rapid dissociation of MBZ from mammalian tubulin, supports the hypothesis that the selective toxicity of the benzimidazole anthelmintics results from a difference between the affinities of mammalian and nematode tubulins for these drugs.