The effect of chirality on the interaction of substrates with the organic cation transporters in the proximal tubule of rat kidney was investigated. The apparent Ki values of the enantiomers/diastereomers of ephedrine and norephedrine and the stereoisomers of deprenyl, tranylcypromine, disopyramide, verapamil, pindolol and quinine/quinidine were determined against the contraluminal organic cation transporter, the luminal H+/organic cation exchanger and the luminal choline+ transporter, using the stop-flow luminal or contraluminal capillary microperfusion method. The ephedrine/norephedrine enantiomers/diastereomers had apparent Ki values against the contraluminal organic cation transporter in the range of 0.8 to 2.4 mM, and only norpseudoephedrine showed significant enantioselectivity. The same substrates had apparent Ki values against the luminal H+/organic cation exchanger between 3.0 and 15.0 mM, and ephedrine, norephedrine and norpseudoephedrine showed enantioselectivity. The Ki values against the luminal choline+ transporter were even higher (7.2-19.1 mM) and demonstrated no enantioselectivity. The verapamil and deprenyl enantiomers showed selectivity against the luminal choline+ transporter, as did quinine and quinidine against the contraluminal organic cation transporter. In all other instances enantioselectivity was not observed. In no case was the difference in the Ki values of the enantiomers/isomers greater than a factor of 3. The data confirm the high degree of nonspecificity of the renal organic cation transporters. Evaluation of three-dimensional molecular models of the ephedrine enantiomers/diastereomers suggests that the spatial orientations of the amino group and, to a lesser extent, the OH group and possibly the terminal CH3 group are of importance for different interactions with the transporters.