The mechanism(s) for uptake of organic cations by renal cortical tubules was (were) examined further. Renal cortical tubules were purified from rat kidneys by a Percoll gradient centrifugation technique. Bicarbonate buffer (Krebs-Henseleit, KHS) conditions were altered, and chemical modulators were used which affect the activity of the basolateral Na+/K+-ATPase. Renal tubule uptake of the achiral organic cation amantadine was determined. The cardiac glycosides digoxin and acetylstrophanthidin and ouabagenin did not alter amantadine uptake by either proximal or distal tubule fragments in KHS. However, ouabain inhibited proximal tubule amantadine uptake in a dose-dependent manner with lower potency than distal tubule amantadine uptake in KHS. Ouabain did not inhibit amantadine tubule uptake in phosphate buffer. However, inhibition of amantadine uptake by ouabain returned in a time-dependent manner upon addition of bicarbonate to the phosphate buffer. Low extracellular sodium or potassium did not alter amantadine uptake by proximal tubules. Hypokalemic and hypokalemic/ hyponatremic conditions decreased the inhibitory potency of ouabain for amantadine uptake by proximal tubules. For distal tubules, both hyponatremic and hypokalemic conditions, alone and together, decreased the inhibitory potency of ouabain, but did not affect amantadine uptake in the absence of ouabain. Hypochloremic conditions decreased affinity for amantadine uptake by distal, but not proximal tubules. No change in maximal transport capacity for amantadine uptake was observed under hypochloremic conditions for either tubule fragment. These studies challenge the widely accepted concept of Na+/ K+-adenosine triphosphatase activity and maintenance of the basolateral membrane potential as rate-limiting steps for the energy-dependent renal tubule uptake of organic cations. Furthermore, these studies suggest a mechanism for ouabain inhibition of organic cation renal tubule uptake that may not involve the Na+/K+-adenosine triphosphatase and may be possibly bicarbonate-dependent.