The effects of various organic anions on the hepatic transport of an anionic fluorescent dye, 1-anilino-8-naphthalene sulfonate (ANS) were investigated by measuring the plasma disappearance-time profiles in rats. Ten min after the i.v. administration of ANS (3 mumol/kg), various organic anions (60 mumol/kg) were injected in a bolus. Sulfobromophthalein (BSP), bromophenol blue (BPB) and rose bengal (RB) induced a transient increase in the plasma concentration of ANS (the so-called 'counter-transport' phenomena). The effect of rose bengal was somewhat different. After the administration of rose bengal, the plasma concentration of ANS decreased rapidly followed by a gradual increase. On the other hand, after the administration of bilirubin and taurocholate, the transient increases in plasma ANS concentrations were minimal. No effect was observed after the administration of phenolsulfophthalein (PSP) or oleate. The effects of these organic anions on the binding of ANS to rat liver cytosols were examined by equilibrium dialysis. Sulfobromophthalein, bromophenol blue and rose bengal, which yielded an in vivo 'counter-transport' phenomena, markedly inhibited ANS binding to cytosolic proteins. On the other hand, the other organic anions examined had very small, if any, inhibitory effect. The ANS binders in the cytosol were then identified by gel filtration. ANS bound mainly to X and Y (ligandin) fractions in the cytosol. Sulfobromophthalein, which is one of the organic anions exhibiting the in vivo 'counter-transport' phenomenon, remarkably inhibited ANS binding to ligandin fraction. It was thus suggested that the in vivo 'counter-transport' phenomena may be also explained by the enhancement of back diffusion due to the displacement of intracellular binding. In conclusion, one should be more cautious in interpreting data obtained from so-called in vivo 'counter-transport' experiments.