1. By use of a sensitive and specific fluorescence assay procedure it was shown that after subcutaneous administration to rats, (+/-)-methadone was concentrated in the lung. Lung to serum ratios ranging from 25 to 60 were obtained indicating that the rat lung tissue was capable of extracting (+/-)-methadone against a concentration gradient. 2. This phenomenon was investigated in vitro with rat lung slices incubated in Krebs-Ringer phosphate buffer (pH 7.4). The uptake was expressed in terms of tissue to medium concentration ratios (T/M ratio). 3. The principal observations were: (i) Studies on the time-course of the uptake showed that the T/M ratios of (+/-)-methadone increased rapidly during the first 60 min of incubation and then more slowly, with a plateau occurring at 180 min; (ii) The T/M ratio of (+/-)-methadone progressively increased from 9.5 to 17 as the pH of the incubation medium was varied from 6.2 to 7.5; (iii) When the concentration of (+/-)-methadone in the incubation medium was varied from 0.005 to 0.5 mM, the T/M ratio decreased rapidly suggesting self-saturation of the transport process. Beyond the medium concentration of 0.5 mM, the T/M ratio declined very slowly. 4. These results suggested that at low concentrations, (+/-)-methadone was transported predominantly by a self-saturable process while at higher concentrations it was transported by a process of simple diffusion. 5. At low concentrations (0.01 mM) the uptake of (+)-methadone was higher than that of (-)-isomer indicating stereo-specificity of the uptake process. The uptake of (+/-)-methadone at low concentration (0.01 mM) was significantly inhibited by low temperature, lack of O2, lack of glucose, lack of Na+ in the incubation medium, and by exposure of the tissue to high temperature (approximately 100 degrees C). The uptake was also inhibited by relatively high concentration of iodoacetate (1.0 mM) and of naloxone (1.0 mM). 6. Kinetic analysis of data showed that the diffusion constant for (+/-)-methadone was 5.0 (h-1) and the Vmax of the active transport process was 6.5 micronmol g-1h-1.