The molecular mechanism of the electroneutral organic cation/H+ antiporter in renal brush border membrane vesicles was studied utilizing the prototypic organic cation N1-methylnicotinamide. The hydrophobic carbodiimide, N,N'-dicyclohexylcarbodiimide (DCCD), inactivated organic cation transport irreversibly with an IC50 of 2.6 microM at pH 7.5 and 40 nM at pH 6.0. On the other hand, the hydrophilic reagents, 1-ethyl-3-[3-(dimethylamino)-propyl]carbodiimide and N-ethoxycarbonyl-2-ethoxy-1,2-dihydroquinoline, did not affect organic cation transport. Substrate did not affect the rate of the DCCD inactivation which followed pseudo-first-order-kinetics. A double logarithmic plot of the apparent rate constants vs. the DCCD concentration gave a straight line with a slope of 0.8. The data are consistent with a simple bimolecular reaction mechanism and imply that one molecule of DCCD inactivates one carboxylate group per active transport unit and that the carboxylate group is critical for transport.