Amino acid transport into plasma membrane vesicles isolated from mature sugar beet (Beta vulgaris L. cv Great Western) leaves was investigated. The transport of alanine, leucine, glutamine, glutamate, isoleucine, and arginine was driven by a trans-membrane proton concentration difference. DeltapH-Dependent alanine, leucine, glutamine, and glutamate transport exhibited simple Michaelis-Menten kinetics, and double-reciprocal plots of the data were linear with apparent K(m) values of 272, 346, 258, and 1981 micromolar, respectively. These results are consistent with carrier mediated transport. DeltapH-Dependent isoleucine and arginine transport exhibited biphasic kinetics, suggesting these amino acids may be transported by at least two transport systems. Symport mediated alanine transport was electrogenic as demonstrated by the effect of membrane potential (DeltaPsi) on DeltapH-dependent flux. In the absence of significant charge compensation, a low rate of alanine transport was observed. When DeltaPsi was held at 0 millivolt with symmetric potassium concentrations and valinomycin, the rate of flux was stimulated fourfold. In the presence of a negative DeltaPsi, alanine transport increased sixfold. These results are consistent with an electrogenic transport process which results in a net flux of positive charge into the vesicles. The effect of changing DeltaPsi on the kinetics of alanine transport altered V(max) with no apparent change in K(m). Amino acid transport was inhibited by the protein modifier diethyl pyrocarbonate, but was insensitive to N-ethylmaleimide, 4,4'-diisothiocyano-2,2'-stilbene disulfonic acid, p-chloromercuribenzenesulfonic acid, phenylglyoxal, and N,N'-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide. Four amino acid symport systems, two neutral, one acidic, and one basic, were resolved based on inter-amino acid competition experiments. One neutral system appears to be active for all neutral amino acids while the second exhibited a low affinity for isoleucine, threonine, valine, and proline. Although each symport was relatively specific for a given group of amino acids, each system exhibited some crossover specificity for amino acids in other groups.