The mitochondrial dicarboxylate carrier has been substantially purified from rat liver mitoplasts by extraction with Triton X-114 in the presence of cardiolipin followed by chromatography on hydroxylapatite. Upon incorporation of the hydroxylapatite eluate into phospholipid vesicles, an n-butylmalonate-sensitive malonate/malate exchange has been demonstrated. This exchange activity is enhanced 226-fold relative to the starting material (i.e. detergent-extracted mitoplasts). Silver-stained sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gradient gels verify the high purity of this fraction relative to the starting material. Nonetheless, the banding pattern indicates that several protein species are still present. As isolated, the dicarboxylate transporter is rather unstable but can be stabilized either by the addition of 10% ethylene glycol and subsequent storage at -20 degrees C or by incorporation into phospholipid vesicles in the presence of malate followed by freezing in liquid nitrogen. Such proteoliposomes catalyze a [14C]malonate uptake which is characterized by a first order rate constant of 1.02 min-1 and a t 1/2 of 41 s. This uptake can be inhibited by dicarboxylates (e.g. succinate, malate, unlabeled malonate) but not by either alpha-ketoglutarate or by tricarboxylates (e.g. citrate, threo-Ds-isocitrate). Furthermore, the reconstituted malonate transport is dependent on internal malate and can be inhibited by n-butylmalonate, mersalyl, p-chloromercuribenzoate, and Pi, but not by N-ethylmaleimide. It is concluded that this highly purified fraction contains a reconstitutively active dicarboxylate transporter which, based on its substrate specificity and inhibitor sensitivity, appears to be identical to the native dicarboxylate transport system found in intact rat liver mitochondria.