The binding to carboxypeptidase A of two phosphonic acid analogues of 2-benzylsuccinate, 2-DL-2-benzyl-3-phosphonopropionic acid (inhibitor I) and 2-DL-2-benzyl-3-(-O-ethylphosphono)propionic acid (inhibitor II) was studied by observing their 31P resonances when free and bound to the enzyme in the range of pH from 5 to 10. The binding of I by co-ordination to the active-site Zn(II) lowered the highest pKa of I from a value of 7.66(+/- 0.10) to a value of 6.71(+/- 0.17). No titration of any protons on II occurred over the pH range studied. The enzyme-bound inhibitor II also did not titrate over the pH range 6.17-7.60. The pH-dependencies of the apparent inhibition constants for I and II were also investigated by using N-(-2-(furanacryloyl)-L-phenylalanyl-L-phenylalanine as substrate. Two enzymic functional groups with pKa values of 5.90(+/- 0.06) and 9.79(+/- 0.14) must be protonated for binding of inhibitor I, and two groups with pKa values of 6.29(+/- 0.10) and 9.19(+/- 0.15) for binding of inhibitor II. Over the pH range from 6.71 to 7.66, inhibitor I binds to the enzyme in a complex of the enzyme in a more protonated form, and the inhibitor in a less protonated form than the predominant unligated forms at this pH. Mock & Tsay [(1986) Biochemistry 25, 2920-2927] made a similar finding for the binding of L-2-(1-carboxy-2-phenylethyl)-4-phenylazophenol over a pH range of nearly 4 units. The true inhibition constant for the dianionic form of inhibitor I (racemic) was calculated to be 54.0(+/- 5.9) nM and that of the trianionic form to be 5.92(+/- 0.65) nM. The true inhibition constant of the fully ionized II (racemic) was calculated to be 79.8(+/- 6.4) nM.