The dose dependency in the hepatic transport of an anionic fluorescent dye, 1-anilino-8-naphthalene sulfonate (ANS), was investigated by measuring the plasma disappearance and biliary excretion in rats. Bulk of the administered ANS distributed into the liver at 10 min after iv bolus injection. The plasma disappearance curves of ANS were then kinetically analyzed based on a two-compartment model, in which the ligand is eliminated only from the peripheral compartment (liver compartment). The total body clearance (CLtot) decreased with increasing dose of ANS. That is, the values of CLtot were 4.06 and 1.98 ml/min/per kg at the doses of 3 and 100 mumol/kg, respectively. The clearances of the uptake and sequestration processes (CLup and CLseq, respectively) for a total ligand were constant irrespective of dose, while the efflux clearance (CLeff) for a total ligand was increased by twofold with increasing dose. A mechanism for the increase in the CLeff value might be explained by a saturation of the ANS binding to the intracellular proteins. The hepatocellular distribution and the binding of ANS to cytosolic proteins were then determined. ANS mainly distributed to the cytosol fraction, and the unbound fraction in the cytosol increased from approximately 0.04 to 0.09 when the cytosolic concentrations of ANS increased from 40 to 900 microM, respectively. In spite of such increase in the unbound fraction in the cytosol, the CLseq values remained unchanged with increasing dose, suggesting that the saturation of sequestration clearance for unbound ANS might occur. Furthermore, the plasma disappearance curves of ANS at various doses were simultaneously analyzed based on three nonlinear kinetic models: Model I is a model incorporating both saturable intracellular binding and saturable sequestration; Model II is a model incorporating only saturable intracellular binding; Model III is the model incorporating only saturable sequestration. Goodness-of-fit evaluated by AIC value was best for Model I. Taken together, the nonlinearity in the plasma clearance of ANS was confirmed to be attributed to saturation of both its binding to cytosolic proteins and sequestration process.