alpha(1)-Acid glycoprotein (AAG), an acute phase component of the human serum, is a prominent member of the lipocalin family of proteins showing inflammatory/immunomodulatory activities and promiscuous drug binding properties. Both three-dimensional structure of AAG and its precise biological function are still unknown and only a few endogenous AAG ligands have been described to date. CD spectroscopic studies performed with commercial AAG and the separated genetic variants revealed high-affinity binding of biliverdin (BV) and biliverdin dimethyl ester to the 'F1/S' fraction of the protein. The preferential accommodation of the right-handed, P-helicity conformers of the pigments by the protein matrix resulted in strong induced CD activity, which was utilized for estimation of the binding parameters and to locate the binding site. It was concluded that both pigments are bound in the central beta-barrel cavity of AAG, held principally by hydrophobic interactions. Possible biological implications of the BV binding ability of AAG with special emphasis on the heme oxygenase-1 pathway are discussed.