Bradykinin receptors on cultured human fibroblasts were characterized using [2,3-prolyl-3,4-3H(N)]bradykinin as radioligand. During incubation with intact fibroblasts, intact [3H]bradykinin was lost much more rapidly at 37 degrees than at 4 degrees C as determined by bioassay, high-performance liquid chromatography, and ion-exchange chromatography, and is likely to be degraded. At 4 degrees, but not at 37 degrees C, bradykinin remained intact in the presence of 2 mM bacitracin, but not in the presence of soybean trypsin inhibitor or SQ-20881, an inhibitor of kininase II. Specific binding at 4 degrees C was saturable with a maximum number of binding sites of 230 +/- 18 fmol/mg protein (mean +/- SE, n = 4) and a dissociation constant of 4.6 +/- 0.5 nM (mean +/- SE, n = 4). Linear Scatchard plots, Hill coefficients close to unity (0.95-1.06), and the failure of excess bradykinin to influence dissociation kinetics are consistent with a single component binding system with no significant cooperativity. Na+ at physiological concentrations and Ca++ or Mg++ at 3-10 mM reduced binding by 25%. The relative potencies of bradykinin analogues and unrelated peptides in competing for [3H]bradykinin binding indicated a specificity of the binding sites consistent with that of a B2 type receptor. Potencies of the peptides in displacing [3H]bradykinin correlated with their abilities to release prostacyclin, determined as its metabolite 6-keto-PGF1 alpha. This system, the first in which bradykinin receptors on human cells have been characterized, should prove useful for investigation of the regulation of bradykinin-influenced biological processes.