Irreversible inhibition, 99.8% of control values for chloride transport in human red blood cells, was obtained by well-established methods of maximum covalent binding of 4,4'-diisothiocyanostilbene-2,2'-disulfonic acid (DIDS). The kinetics of the residual chloride transport (0.2%, 106 pmol.cm-2 x s-1) at 38 degrees C, pH 7.2) was studied by means of 36Cl- efflux. The outside apparent affinity, expressed by Ko1/2,c, was 34 mM, as determined by substituting external KCl by sucrose. The residual flux was reversibly inhibited by a reexposure to DIDS, and by 4,4'- dinitrostilbene-2,2'-disulfonate (DNDS), phloretin, salicylate, and alpha-bromo-4-hydroxy-3,5-dinitroacetophenone (Killer III) (Borders, C. L., Jr., D. M. Perez, M. W. Lafferty, A. J. Kondow, J. Brahm, M. B. Fenderson, G. L. Breisford, and V. B. Pett. 1989. Bioorganic Chemistry. 17:96-107), to approximately 0.001% of control cells, which is a flux as low as in lipid bilayers. The reversible DIDS inhibition of the residual chloride flux depended on the extracellular chloride concentration, but was not purely competitive. The half-inhibition concentrations at [Cl(o)] = 150 mM in control cells (Ki,o) and covalently DIDS-treated cells (Ki,c) were: DIDS, Ki,c = 73 nM; DNDS, Ki,o = 6.3 microM, Ki,c = 22 microM; phloretin, Ki,o = 19 microM, Ki,c = 17 microM; salicylate, Ki,o = 4 mM, Ki,c = 8 mM; Killer III, Ki,o = 10 microM, Ki,c = 10 microM.