The present study examined the effect of human milk folate binding protein (FBP) on the intestinal transport of 5-methyltetrahydrofolate (5-CH3H4PteGlu). This was performed by examining the transport of radiolabeled 5-CH3H4PteGlu bound to FBP using everted sacs of rat intestine. In the jejunum at pH 6, transport of 27 nM bound 5-CH3H4PteGlu was linear with time for 30 min of incubation. Transport of 13 nM bound 5-CH3H4PteGlu was higher in the jejunum than in the ileum at both pH 6 (2.1 +/- 0.3 and 0.36 +/- 0.03 pmol/g wet wt/25 min, respectively) and pH 8 (1.9 +/- 0.3 and 0.32 +/- 0.02 pmol/g wet wt/25 min, respectively). In the jejunum, transport of 13 nM bound 5-CH3H4PteGlu at pH 6 was less than transport of an equimolar concentration of free 5-CH3H4PteGlu (2.1 +/- 0.3 and 5.1 +/- 0.5 pmol/g wet wt/25 min, respectively) but was similar at pH 8 (1.9 +/- 0.3 and 2.47 +/- 0.3 pmol/g wet wt/25 min, respectively). In the ileum transport of bound and free 5-CH3H4PteGlu was similar at pH 6 (0.36 +/- 0.03) and 0.41 +/- 0.06 pmol/g wet wt/25 min, respectively) and pH 8 (0.32 +/- 0.02 and 0.43 +/- 0.1 pmol/g wet wt/25 min, respectively). The transport process of bound 5-CH3H4PteGlu in the jejunum was energy, temperature, and Na+ dependent, but not pH dependent, and was competitively inhibited by sulfasalazine. Ninety-two percent of the transport substrate that appeared in the serosal compartment following incubation with bound 5-CH3H4PteGlu was found to be free (unbound) 5-CH3H4PteGlu. These results show that human milk FBP decreases the rate of transport of 5-CH3H4PteGlu in the jejunum and suggest that FBP-bound 5-CH3H4PteGlu may utilize the same transport system as free 5-CH3H4PteGlu. The results also suggest a role for human milk FBP in regulating the nutritional bioavailability of folate.