Primary cultures of bovine brain microvessel endothelial cells (BMECs) were used to characterize blood-brain barrier (BBB) uptake and transport of biotin. Both the uptake and the transcellular transport of either radiolabeled or fluorescein-conjugated biotin by confluent monolayers of BMECs were measured. Biotin uptake (Km = 123 microM) and bidirectional transport across BMEC monolayers was a saturable process and could be competed for by unlabeled biotin, biocytin, and biotinmethyl ester. Pantothenic and nonanoic acid were found not to be effective competitors for either biotin uptake or transport. The metabolic inhibitor, 2-deoxyglucose, had only small effects on the saturable apical-to-basolateral transport and apical uptake of biotin by BMECs. In contrast, basolateral-to-apical transport of biotin was substantially attenuated by 2-deoxyglucose pretreatment. Results supported the existence of specific and saturable uptake and efflux carrier systems for biotin in BMEC monolayers. The function of these systems was dependent to some degree on the metabolic status of the BMECs. Our findings confirm the existence of a biotin uptake system at the BBB in vivo and provide the first indication of an efflux system for biotin in BMECs.