A physiologically based kidney model was developed to describe the metabolism of enalapril and explain the observed discrepancies between generated and preformed enalaprilat (metabolite) elimination in the constant flow single-pass and recirculating isolated perfused rat kidney preparations (IPKs) as a result of the differing points of origin of the metabolite within the kidney, subsequent to the simultaneous delivery of 14C-enalapril and 3H-enalaprilat. The model incorporated clearances for diffusion/transport of drug and metabolite across the basolateral and luminal membranes of the renal cells, an intrinsic clearance for renal drug metabolism, in addition to physiological variables such as perfusate flow rate, glomerular filtration rate, and urine flow rate. Nonlinear curve fitting of single-pass and recirculating data was performed to estimate the rate-limiting step in the renal elimination of enalaprilat. Through fitting and simulation procedures, we were able to predict metabolic and excretory events for enalapril (renal extraction ratio approximately equal to 0.25-0.3; fractional excretion, FE, was less than unity) and the relatively constant pattern of urinary excretion of preformed enalaprilat (extraction ratio approximately equal to 0.07; FE approximately equal to 1). The extraction ratio of the intrarenally formed enalaprilat in single-pass IPK was about twofold that for the preformed metabolite, whereas the FEs of generated enalaprilat in recirculating IPKs were greater than 1, and tended to increase, then decrease with perfusion time. These observations were explained by the optimized parameters which indicated that efflux from cell to lumen was rate-controlling in the excretion of enalaprilat, and another small transport barrier also existed at the basolateral membrane; the lower extraction ratio of preformed enalaprilat was due to its poor transmembrane clearance at the basolateral membrane. The variable FEs for generated enalaprilat vs. the relatively constant FE for preformed metabolite in the recirculating IPK was explained by the changing contributions of both circulating and intrarenal metabolite to metabolite excretion.