It is generally assumed that the systems involved in the transport of organic cations and organic anions in the renal proximal tubule are substrate selective (i.e., organic anions do not inhibit organic cation transport and vice versa). However, recent data obtained in vitro have suggested that the organic anion probenecid inhibits the renal transport of the organic cation cimetidine. We addressed the question of whether this interaction is biologically relevant in human beings. The study involved a two-treatment, randomized crossover design. Six healthy male subjects were given an intravenous infusion of 300 mg cimetidine alone as one treatment and, as the other treatment, received multiple oral doses of probenecid before receiving the cimetidine infusion. The renal clearance of cimetidine and inulin was determined in each period. There were no significant differences between treatments in cimetidine plasma concentrations, apparent volume of distribution, systemic clearance, half-life, amount of drug excreted unchanged in the urine, or nonrenal clearance. Probenecid significantly decreased the renal clearance of cimetidine by decreasing both the filtration clearance and the net secretory clearance. These effects were most evident in the first 1/2 to 1 hour after cimetidine administration, when probenecid levels in plasma and renal tissue would have been the highest. Because there was no effect of probenecid on cimetidine plasma concentrations, this interaction is not clinically relevant to the therapeutic use of these two compounds. However, the study demonstrates that renal interactions between organic cations and organic anions can occur in human beings. The mechanism of this interaction and the implications to other drug combinations are being explored.