Nigella sativa seed oil was found to contain a modulator of Na,K-ATPase. Separation analyses combined with (1)H NMR and GCMS identified the inhibitory fraction as a mixture of oleic and linoleic acids. These two fatty acids are specifically concentrated in several medicinal plant oils, and have particularly been implicated in decreasing high blood pressure. The ouabain binding site on Na,K-ATPase has also been implicated in blood pressure regulation. Thus, we aimed to determine how these two molecules modify pig kidney Na,K-ATPase. Oleic and linoleic acids did not modify reactions involving the E(1) (Na(+)) conformations of the Na,K-ATPase. In contrast, K(+) dependent reactions were strongly modified after treatment. Oleic and linoleic acids were found to stabilize a pump conformation that binds ouabain with high affinity, i.e., an ion free E(2)P form. Time-resolved binding assays using anthroylouabain, a fluorescent ouabain analog, revealed that the increased ouabain affinity is unique to oleic and linoleic acids, as compared with ¿-linolenic acid, which decreased pump-mediated ATP hydrolysis but did not equally increase ouabain interaction with the pump. Thus, the dynamic changes in plasma levels of oleic and linoleic acids are important in the modulation of the sensitivity of the sodium pump to cardiac glycosides. Given the possible involvement of the cardiac glycoside binding site on Na,K-ATPase in the regulation of hypertension, we suggest oleic acid to be a specific chaperon that modulates interaction of cardiac glycosides with the sodium pump.