Uptake of organic anions into isolated rat hepatocytes was studied to examine their ATP dependency. In the presence of rotenone (0.2 microM), the initial velocity of the uptake (Vo) of dibromosulfophthalein (DBSP; 10 microM), 1-anilino-8-naphthalenesulfonate (ANS; 10 microM) and benzylpenicillin (PCG; 0.02 microM) was reduced to 60-70% of the control value, while that of bromosulfophthalein (BSP; 10 microM), rose bengal (RB; 10 microM) and bromophenol blue (BPB; 10 microM) was not affected. Furthermore, we examined the inhibitory effect of rotenone on the uptake at equilibrium of non-metabolizable ligands (DBSP, BPB and RB). The uptake of these ligands reached equilibrium at 30 min with a cel-to-medium concentration ratio (C/M ratio) of 75, 37 and 126, respectively. The C/M ratio at equilibrium of DBSP was reduced by rotenone to approx. 60% of the control value, while that of BPB and RB was not reduced. Other metabolic inhibitors such as sodium azide (10 mM) and carbonylcyanide-p-trifluoromethoxyphenylhydrazone (FCCP; 10 microM) also reduced the Vo of DBSP and PCG, while the uptake of BSP and RB was not reduced by these inhibitors. These results indicate that organic anions can be classified into two groups according to whether they are taken up by hepatocytes in an ATP-dependent manner, i.e., via active transport or in an ATP-independent manner, i.e., via facilitated diffusion. DBSP, PCG and ANS belong to the former group, whereas BSP, BPB and RB belong to the latter.