In previous studies of the pharmacokinetics and urinary excretion of nine glycopeptides with diverse isoelectric points (pI), as pI decreases, the total systemic and renal clearance, urinary recovery, and volume of distribution decrease, whereas the half-life increases. With glycopeptides of similar pI, clearance decreases and half-life increases with increasing lipophilicity. The present study examines the serum protein binding of these glycopeptide antibiotics in mouse, rat, and human serum and calculates the previously reported pharmacokinetic parameters for these drugs based on unbound concentration. Increased negative charge and lipophilicity increase serum protein binding (90-fold, fu 83% to 0.96%), which decreases the renal clearance and total systemic clearance (90-fold, 16.4 to 0.18 ml/min/kg) of these drugs. Increased serum protein binding also decreases the volume of distribution of these compounds, but this change is relatively small (sixfold, 755 to 131 ml/kg) compared with the change in total systemic clearance causing an increase in elimination half-life (25-fold, 20 to 492 min). The results demonstrate that the large differences in the total systemic clearance and half-life of these glycopeptide antibiotics are primarily due to dramatic differences in serum protein binding and not to differences in the intrinsic elimination processes (enzymes or transport proteins). It appears that the same physical-chemical properties that govern the protein binding and pharmacokinetics of small organic molecules govern the disposition of these high-molecular weight glycopeptide antibiotics.