We have investigated the transmembrane topology of the bovine heart mitochondrial porin by means of proteases and antibodies raised against the amino-terminal region of the protein. The antisera against the human N-terminus reacted with porin in Western blots of NaDodSO4-solubilized bovine heart mitochondria and with the membrane-bound porin in enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA). The immunoreaction with mitochondria coated on microtiter wells showed that the amino-terminal region of the protein is not embedded in the lipid bilayer but is exposed to the cytosol. Back-titration of unreacted anti-N-terminal antibodies after their incubation with intact mitochondria demonstrated that the porin N-terminus is also exposed in "noncoated" mitochondria. No difference in antisera reactivity was observed between intact and broken mitochondria. Intact and broken mitochondria were subjected to proteolysis by specific proteases. The membrane-bound bovine heart porin was strongly resistant to proteolysis, but a few specific cleavage sites were observed. Staphylococcus aureus V8 protease gave a large 24K N-terminal peptide, trypsin produced a 12K N-terminal and an 18K C-terminal peptide, and chymotrypsin gave two peptides of Mr 19.5K and 12.5K, which were both recognized by the antiserum against the human N-terminus. Carboxypeptidase A was ineffective in cleaving the membrane-bound porin in both intact and broken mitochondria. Thus, the carboxy-terminal part of the protein is probably not exposed to the water phase. The cleavage patterns of membrane-bound porin, obtained with S. aureus V8 protease, trypsin, and chymotrypsin, showed no difference between intact and broken mitochondria, thus indicating that all porin molecules have the same orientation in the membrane. The computer analysis of the sequence of human B-lymphocyte porin suggested that 16 beta-strands can span the phospholipid bilayer. This result, together with the overall information presented, allowed us to draw a possible scheme of the transmembrane arrangement of mammalian mitochondrial porin.