In order to determine whether the vitamin nicotinic acid is absorbed via an anion antiporter, intestinal epithelial cell membrane transport mechanisms for nicotinic acid were characterized using isolated rabbit jejunal brush-border membrane vesicles. The uptake of nicotinic acid by the membrane vesicles showed an overshoot phenomenon in the presence of an outwardly directed bicarbonate gradient or an inwardly directed proton gradient and the uptakes were two times and six times greater, respectively, than that in the absence of any ion gradient. The bicarbonate-dependent initial uptake of nicotinic acid was increased at acidic pH, showing pH-dependent transport activity. An inhibitor of anion transport, 4,4'-diisothiocyanostilbene-2,2'-disulphonic acid, specifically reduced bicarbonate-dependent transport of nicotinic acid. The initial uptakes of nicotinic acid via the anion antiporter and the proton cotransporter were specifically inhibited by monocarboxylic acids such as acetic acid, benzoic acid, D- and L-lactic acid, pravastatin and valproic acid, but not by di- or tricarboxylic acids, bile acids or amino acids. Nicotinic acid uptake activity was, furthermore, expressed in a Xenopus laevis oocyte system after injection of messenger RNA (mRNA) derived from rabbit intestinal epithelial cells. These observations demonstrate that nicotinic acid is absorbed by two independent active transport mechanisms from small intestine, i.e. a proton cotransporter and an anion antiporter. The pH-dependence observed in the intestinal absorption of nicotinic acid might, therefore, be ascribed partly to pH-sensitive and partly to carrier-mediated transport mechanisms in the brush-border membrane.