Upon modification of the reconstituted aspartate/glutamate carrier by mercury reagents the antiporter was converted into a unidirectional efflux carrier (Dierks, T., Salentin, A., Heberger, C. and Krämer, R. (1990) Biochim. Biophys. Acta 1028, 268). In addition to this basic change in the mechanism, the mercurials, reacting with exofacial cysteines, also affected the internal binding site of the carrier leading to an unmeasurable high Km and to a drastically reduced substrate specificity. The spectrum of efflux substrates comprised small anions from chloride to glutamate, but not cationic amino acids and ATP, hence resembling pore-like properties. However, in the efflux state important carrier properties were also observed. The activation energy (86 kJ/mol) was as high as for the antiport. Furthermore, efflux was inhibited by the presence of external substrate. This trans-inhibition strongly suggests that the external binding site of the carrier, prerequisite in the antiport mechanism, also is involved in conformational transitions during efflux function. However, antiport no longer is catalyzed after switching to the efflux state. Reversion of the induced efflux carrier to the antiport state was achieved using dithioerythritol, thereby further restoring substrate specificity and saturation kinetics. A model for antiport-efflux interconversion is presented suggesting that two reactive cysteines have to be modified in order to uncouple the inward and outward directed component of antiport. The pore-type characteristics of efflux are taken as evidence that a channel-like structure determines the selectivity of unidirectional transport. This intrinsic channel of the protein then is required for substrate translocation also during antiport function.