Mineralocorticoid activity of glycyrrhetinic acid (GR) was studied in vivo (electrical potential difference in rat rectum) and in vitro (brush border Mg2+-HCO3- ATPase in rat small intestine, kidney cytosol binding of GR with and without RU-28362, anti-glucocorticoid compound) in order to clarify the mechanism of mineralocorticoid-like activity of GR. Scatchard analysis of [3H]aldosterone showed that Kd of higher affinity site (type I) 6.0 X 10(-9) M, Bmax 1.0 X 10(-14) mol/mg protein, and Kd of lower affinity site (type II) 1.6 X 10(-7) M, Bmax 7.5 X 10(-14) mol/mg protein. GR competed for [3H]aldosterone binding sites in kidney cytosol at the concentration of 10(4) times as that of unlabeled aldosterone. RU-28362 displaced aldosterone binding curve, whereas GR binding kinetic was not affected by this compound. Adrenalectomy caused a significant fall in brush border Mg2+-HCO3- ATPase activity (75% reduction compared with the initial level) which was not restored by GR administration. Electrical potential differences in the adrenalecomized rats were significantly lower than those in the control rats, which did not increase after GR administration.