Here we describe the effect of colistin on the barrier function of the mammalian urinary bladder epithelium. Addition of colistin to the mucosal solution of the rabbit urinary bladder epithelium (urothelium) resulted in an increase in the transepithelial conductance. The magnitude of the increase in transepithelial conductance was dependent on the membrane voltage, concentration of colistin, and presence of divalent cations in the bath solution. The initial site of action of colistin was at the apical membrane. Colistin increased the membrane conductance only when the apical membrane potential was cell interior negative. The more negative the membrane potential, the larger the conductance increase. The concentration dependence of the conductance increase saturated, suggesting a membrane binding site. Divalent cations decreased the magnitude of the conductance increase. This divalent cation action occurred at two sites: one in competition with colistin for a membrane binding site, and the other by rapidly blocking the induced conductance. At short exposure times, the increase in conductance was reversed by either removing colistin from the bath or changing the voltage so that the apical membrane was cell interior positive. At long exposure times, the increase was only partially reversible by voltage or removal from the bath. This finding suggests that at long exposure times, there is a toxic effect of colistin on the urothelium.