The rates of penetration of various cations through isolated apricot Prunus armeniaca L. leaf cuticles were determined. Steady state rates were measured by using a specially constructed flow-through diffusion cell. The penetration rates of the monovalent cations in group IA followed a normal lyotropic series, i.e., CS(+) >/= Rb(+) > K(+) > Na(+) > Li(+). The divalent cations all penetrated through the cuticle more slowly than the monovalent cations. Comparison of the relative values of k (permeability coefficient) and D (diffusion coefficient) indicates that the penetration of ions through isolated cuticles took place by diffusion and was impeded by charge interactions between the solute and charge sites in the penetration pathway. Cuticular penetration rates of K(+) and H(2)O at pH above 9 were of similar magnitude. At pH 5.5 H(2)O penetration was not affected but that of K(+) was greatly reduced. From this observation and from data on cuticle titration and ion adsorption studies, we hypothesize that cuticular pores are lined with a substance (perhaps a protein) which has exposed positively charged sites.