Two series of uncharged conjugated bile salt derivatives, N-conjugates of ethanolamine and 3-amino-1,2-propanediol were studied for interaction with the ileal bile salt transport system. Evidence for interaction is threefold. 1) In everted gut sac experiments more material was removed from the mucosal compartment when ileal sacs were used. 2) These derivatives inhibited the in vitro transport of taurocholate. 3) In vivo intestinal perfusion demonstrated greater absorption from ileum than from jejunum. Number three demonstrates that such interactions are followed by transmucosal movement. Their uphill transport was less than taurocholate transport. The Na(+) requirement for cholyl-3-amino-1,2-propanediol interaction with the system was greater than for taurocholate. This observation is similar to that previously observed with taurodehydrocholate, which had a greater Na(+) requirement for transport than taurocholate. Therefore removal of the anionic charge, as well as distortion of steroid shape, increases the Na(+) requirement for substrate interaction with the transport system. These observations support our hypothesis that this interaction involves two recognition components; one includes the steroid moiety, the other a coulombic interaction between the anionic bile salt and a cationic membrane site. Additionally the membrane would have an anionic group to accomodate the Na(+). Both factors (steroidal and coulombic) operate for optimal substrate attachment. Simultaneously the system's affinity for Na(+) increases and active transport then proceeds.