Serotonin is actively transported into brush-border membrane vesicles isolated from normal human term placentas and an inward-directed NaCl gradient provides the driving force for this process. Uptake is negligible if Na+ is replaced by Li+, K+, Rb+, Cs+ or choline. The presence of Cl- seems necessary for the maximal activity of this Na+-dependent uptake system. Intravesicular K+ (20-40 mM) stimulates serotonin uptake, the stimulation being considerably greater at pH 7.5 than at pH 6.5. But, in the absence of K+, uptake at pH 6.5 was twice the uptake at pH 7.5. Unlabeled serotonin and dopamine inhibit the uptake of radiolabeled serotonin and the IC50 values are 70 nM and 20 μM, respectively. Histamine and 5-hydroxytryptophan do not significantly interact with the system (IC50 > 1 mM). Kinetic analysis reveals that serotonin uptake in these vesicles occurs via a single, saturable, high affinity system (K(t) = 51 ± 2 nM; V(max) = 6.4 ± 0.1 pmol/mg of protein/15 s). The transporter is highly sensitive to inhibition by imipramine (IC50 = 32 nM) and desipramine (IC50 = 160 nM) but relatively insensitive to reserpine and hydralazine.