125I-Labeled N-bromoacetyl derivatives of L-thyroxine and L-triiodothyronine were used as alkylating affinity labels to identify rat liver and kidney microsomal membrane proteins which specifically bind thyroid hormones. Affinity label incorporation was analyzed by ethanol precipitation and individual affinity labeled proteins were identified by autoradiography after separation by sodium dodecyl sulfate-polyacrylamide gel electrophoresis under reducing conditions. Six to eight membrane proteins ranging in size from 17 to 84 kDa were affinity labeled by both bromoacetyl-L-thyroxine (BrAcT4) and bromoacetyl-L-triiodothyronine (BrAcT3). Affinity labeling was time- and temperature-dependent, and both reduced dithiols and detergents increased affinity labeling, predominantly in a 27-kDa protein(s). Up to 80% of the affinity label was associated with a 27-kDa protein (p27) under optimal conditions. Affinity labeling of p27 by 0.4 nM BrAc[125I]L-T4 was blocked by 0.1 microM of the alkylating ligands BrAcT4, BrAcT3, or 100 microM iodoacetate, by 10 microM concentrations of the non-alkylating, reversible ligands N-acetyl-L-thyroxine, 3,3',5'-triiodothyronine, 3,5-diiodosalicylate, and EMD 21388, a T4-antagonistic flavonoid. Neither 10 microM L-T4, nor 10 microM N-acetyltriiodothyronine or 10 microM L-triiodothyronine blocked affinity labeling of p27 or other affinity labeled bands. Affinity labeling of a 17-kDa band was partially inhibited by excess of the alkylating ligands BrAcT4, BrAcT3, and iodoacetate, but labeling of other minor bands was not blocked by excess of the competitors. BrAc[125I]T4 yielded higher affinity label incorporation than BrAc[125I]T3, although similar banding patterns were observed, except that BrAcT3 affinity labeled more intensely a 58,000-Da band in liver and a 53,000-55,000-Da band in kidney. The pattern of other affinity labeled proteins with p27 as the predominant band was similar in liver and kidney. Peptide mapping of affinity labeled p27 and p55 bands by chemical cleavage and protease fragmentation revealed no common bands excluding that p27 is a degradation product of p55. These data indicate that N-bromoacetyl derivatives of T4 and T3 affinity label a limited but similar constellation of membrane proteins with BrAcT4 incorporation greater than that of BrAcT3. One membrane protein (p27) of low abundance (2-5 pmol/mg microsomal protein) with a reactive sulfhydryl group is selectively labeled under conditions identical to those used to measure thyroid hormone 5'-deiodination. Only p27 showed differential affinity labeling in the presence of noncovalently bound inhibitors or substrates on 5'-deiodinase suggesting that p27 is likely to be a component of type I 5'-deiodinase in rat liver and kidney.