Radioionated avidin and streptavidin were characterized for their biodistribution and tissue association in Balb/c mice, in comparison to their interaction with cells in vitro. Binding of avidin to spleen and bone-marrow cells in vitro was up to 20-fold higher than that of streptavidin, but when tested in vivo avidin clearance from blood and tissues was considerably faster than that of streptavidin. Levels of avidin at 24 h after an intravenous injection were below 1% (of the injected dose/mass tissue) in most organs. Non-glycosylated avidin was similar in its biodistribution to native avidin. Native streptavidin exhibited higher and prolonged tissue association with 5-10% levels in lung, liver, spleen, kidney and blood, whereas its truncated form showed low tissue levels (1-3%) but a remarkably high affinity to the kidney (80%). Exogenous biotin did not affect streptavidin distribution in vivo but caused a 2-7-fold increase in the retention of avidin (but not non-glycodylated avidin) in some of the organs.