1-Sulfonato-8-(1')anilinonaphthalene (1,8-ANS) was employed as a fluorescent probe of the fatty acid binding site of recombinant rat intestinal fatty acid binding protein (1-FABP). The enhancement of fluorescence upon binding allowed direct determination of binding affinity by fluorescence titration experiments, and measurement of the effects on that affinity of temperature, pH, and ionic strength. Solvent isotope effects were also determined. These data were compared to results from isothermal titration calorimetry. We obtained values for the enthalpy and entropy of this interaction at a variety of temperatures, and hence determined the change in heat capacity of the system consequent upon binding. The ANS-1-FABP is enthalpically driven; above approximately 14 degrees C it is entropically opposed, but below this temperature the entropy makes a positive contribution to the binding. The changes we observe in both enthalpy and entropy of binding with temperature can be derived from the change in heat capacity upon binding by integration, which demonstrates the internal consistency of our results. Bound ANS is displaced by fatty acids and can itself displace fatty acids bound to I-FABP. The binding site for ANS appears to be inside the solvent-containing cavity observed in the x-ray crystal structure, the same cavity occupied by fatty acid. From the fluorescence spectrum and from an inversion of the Debye-Hueckel formula for the activity coefficients as a function of added salt, we inferred that this cavity is fairly polar in character, which is in keeping with inferences drawn from the x-ray structure. The binding affinity of ANS is considered to be a consequence of both electrostatic and conditional hydrophobic effects. We speculate that the observed change in heat capacity is produced mainly by the displacement of strongly hydrogen-bonded waters from the protein cavity.