The bile salt independent fraction (BSIF) of canalicular bile flow from the isolated rat liver perfused with bicarbonate-free perfusate is 50% of that from the liver perfused with bicarbonate-containing perfusate. HCO3-excretion is nearly eliminated and Na+ and Cl- excretion is reduced 50%. Replacement of HCO3- into perfusate increased bile flow by 0.3 microliter/g.min without changing bile acid excretion rate. 5.5-Dimethyl-2,4-oxazolidinedione (DMO) produced a similar effect. DMO was passively distributed between bile and plasma. The data indicate that a bicarbonate transport mechanism is responsible for production of up to 50% of the BSIF. Another weak acid, N-5[5-(2-methoxyethoxy)-2-pyrimidinyl]sulfamoylbenzene (glymidine), was rapidly excreted into bile and increased bile flow by over 2.0 microliter/g.min. Glymidine is probably excreted by an independent organic anion transport mechanism, and any effect on the bicarbonate transport mechanism is obscured. Canaliculus-enriched hepatocyte membrane fractions contained no HCO3-stimulated ATPase activity. Either this enzyme is unimportant in hepatocyte bicarbonate transport or transport occurs across membranes other than the bile canalicular membrane.