Endothelial cells preserve vascular integrity in part by synthesizing type IV collagen for the basement membrane of blood vessels. Vitamin C, which at physiologic pH is largely the ascorbate mono-anion, both protects these cells from oxidant stress and is required for collagen synthesis. Therefore, cultured endothelial cells were used to correlate intracellular concentrations of ascorbate with its uptake and ability to stimulate collagen release into the culture medium. The kinetics and inhibitor specificity of ascorbate transport into EA.hy926 endothelial cells were similar to those observed in other cell types, indicative of a specific high affinity transport process. Further, transport of the vitamin generated intracellular ascorbate concentrations that were 80-100-fold higher than concentrations in the medium following overnight culture, and transport inhibition with sulfinpyrazone and phloretin partially prevented such ascorbate accumulation. On the other hand, low millimolar intracellular concentrations of ascorbate impaired its transport measured after overnight culture. Synthesis and release of type IV collagen into the culture medium was markedly stimulated by ascorbate in a time-dependent manner, and was saturable with increasing medium concentrations of the vitamin. Optimal rates of collagen synthesis required intracellular concentrations of the vitamin up to 2 mM. Since such concentrations can only be generated by the ascorbate transporter, these results show the necessity of transport for this crucial function of the vitamin in endothelium.