The present studies examined the mechanism of bicarbonate transport across basolateral membrane vesicles prepared from rabbit renal cortex. Isotopic sodium uptake was stimulated by bicarbonate when compared with gluconate (2.5 nmol/mg protein per 5 s versus 1.4 nmol/mg protein per 5 s), and this process was inhibited by disulfonic stilbenes. Imposition of an interior-positive potassium diffusion potential further stimulated isotopic sodium uptake to 3.4 nmol/mg protein per 5 s, an effect that occurred only in the presence of bicarbonate and was blocked by disulfonic stilbenes. Kinetic analysis of the rate of bicarbonate-dependent sodium uptake as a function of sodium concentration revealed saturable stimulation with a V(max) of 2.7 nmol/mg protein per 2 s and a K(m) of 10.4 mM. The effect of bicarbonate concentration on bicarbonate-dependent sodium uptake was more complex. The present results demonstrate an electrogenic (negatively charged) sodium/bicarbonate cotransporter in basolateral membrane vesicles from the rabbit renal cortex. The electrogenicity implies a stoichiometry of at least two bicarbonate ions for each sodium ion.