The binding of Rose bengal, a model organic anion, to sinusoidal and bile canalicular membrane fractions isolated from rat liver was compared. The fluorescence change of Rose bengal after being bound to liver plasma membranes was utilized for measuring the binding. The dissociation constants (Kd = 0.1-0.12 microM) and the binding capacities (n = 11-15 nmol/mg protein) for Rose bengal are comparable between the two membrane fractions, although the n value for sinusoidal membrane is somewhat larger than that for bile canalicular membrane. The Rose bengal binding to both membrane fractions was inhibited by various organic anions at relatively low concentrations, i.e., the half-inhibition concentrations (IC50) for Indocyanine green, sulfobromophthalein, Bromophenol blue and 1-anilino-8-naphthalene sulfonate were 0.1, 100, 1.5-2.5 and 100 microM, respectively, while taurocholate did not inhibit the Rose bengal binding to either membrane fraction at these low concentration ranges. The type of inhibition of sulfobromophthalein and Indocyanine green for Rose bengal binding is different between the two membrane domains. That is, in sinusoidal and bile canalicular membrane fractions, these organic anions exhibit mixed-type and competitive-type inhibition, respectively. It was suggested that the fluorescence method using Rose bengal may provide a simple method for detecting the specific organic anion binding protein(s) in the liver plasma membrane.