The binding and inhibitory properties of 11 benzimidazoles for bovine brain tubulin were investigated. The effects of the benzimidazoles on the initial rates of microtubule polymerization were determined by a turbidimetric assay. The median inhibitory concentrations (I50) for nocodazole, oxibendazole, parbendazole, mebendazole and fenbendazole ranged from 1.97 . 10(-6) to 6.32 . 10(-6) M. Benomyl, cambendazole and carbendazim had I50 values from 5.83 . 10(-5) to 9.01 .10(-5) M. Thiabendazole had an I50 value of 5.49 . 10(-4) M. Inhibitor constants (Ki) were determined by the colchicine binding assay. Oxibendazole, fenbendazole, and cambendazole had Ki values of 3.20 . 10(-5), 1.73 . 10(-5) and 1.10 . 10(-4) M, respectively. Oxibendazole and fenbendazole were competitive inhibitors of colchicine. In contrast, cambendazole was a noncompetitive inhibitor of colchicine. The ability of these benzimidazoles to inhibit microtubule polymerization and the mode of action for the anthelmintic benzimidazoles is discussed.