The secretory and reabsorptive transport of salicylate was studied in the isolated and perfused rabbit proximal tubule (S2 segment). Salicylate secretion (Jb----lsal) fulfilled the criteria for a carrier-mediated transport system: Jb----lsal was saturable, was reversibly inhibited by probenecid, and occurred against a concentration gradient. The Km and Vmax for this secretory transport were 80 microM and 3,200 fmol.min-1.mm-1, respectively. At luminal pH of 7.4 and 6.6, salicylate reabsorption (Jl----bsal) was low (100 fmol.min-1.mm-1). Jl----bsal was stimulated by increasing the bath PCO2 or by removing basolateral HCO3-; Jl----bsal was inhibited by ethoxyzolamide and by SITS in the bath. Our results indicate that salicylate reabsorption depends on H+ secretion, consistent with reabsorption by simple nonionic diffusion. When salicylate was present in the lumen only, Jl----bsal increased after inhibition of the secretory transport by adding ouabain or probenecid in the bath or by lowering the bath temperature. These results are compatible with luminal recycling of salicylate, and suggest the presence of a mediated secretory transporter located at the luminal membrane.