OATP1B1 and 1B3 are related transporters mediating uptake of numerous compounds into hepatocytes. A putative model of OATP1B3 with a "positive binding pocket" containing conserved positively charged amino acids was predicted (Meier-Abt et al. J Membr Biol 208:213-227, 2005). Based on this model, we tested the hypothesis that these positive amino acids are important for OATP1B1 function. We made mutants and measured surface expression and uptake of estradiol-17β-glucuronide, estrone-3-sulfate and bromosulfophthalein in HEK293 cells. Two of the mutants had low surface expression levels: R181K at 10% and R580A at 30% of wild-type OATP1B1. A lysine at position 580 (R580K) rescued the expression of R580A. Mutations of several amino acids resulted in substrate-dependent effects. The largest changes were seen for estradiol-17β-glucuronide, while estrone-3-sulfate and bromosulfophthalein transport were less affected. The wild-type OATP1B1 K (m) value for estradiol-17β-glucuronide of 5.35 ± 0.54 μM was increased by R57A to 30.5 ± 3.64 μM and decreased by R580K to 0.52 ± 0.18 μM. For estrone-3-sulfate the wild-type high-affinity K (m) value of 0.55 ± 0.12 μM was increased by K361R to 1.8 ± 0.47 μM and decreased by R580K to 0.1 ± 0.04 μM. In addition, R580K reduced the V (max) values for all three substrates to <25% of wild-type OATP1B1. Mutations at intracellular K90, H92 and R93 mainly affected V (max) values for estradiol-17β-glucuronide uptake. In conclusion, the conserved amino acids R57, K361 and R580 seem to be part of the substrate binding sites and/or translocation pathways in OATP1B1.