Ultrastructural 3-D analysis of nucleolar architecture and Ag-NOR protein distribution in mouse kidney-cortex proximal-tubule epithelium has been performed. A principal scheme of structural changes of the nucleolus and organization of its components during the intensification of pre-rRNA synthesis (dynamic model of a nucleolus) based on computer spatial modelling has been advanced. According to the nucleolar composition, three groups of cells, which differ from each other by rRNA synthesis, are defined in normal kidney. Most nephron proximal-section cells (about 52%) are characterized by lower activity of RNA synthesis. Such kind of cells are defined as group I (nucleolar diameter 0.7-1.5 microm) and always contain resting, ring-shaped or close to ring-shaped dense nucleoli, which have 2 or 3 fibrillar centers. Nucleoli of group II cells (about 37%, nucleolar diameter 1.5-2.5 microm) have a higher level of activity, contain 4-7 fibrillar centers, and their structural organization is close to reticulated forms due to the first indications of vacuolar network (identified as prereticulated nucleoli). The most active cells of group III (about 11%, nucleolar diameter 2.5-3.5 microm) include cells with typical reticulated nucleoli with a well expressed vacuolar network and numerous fibrillar centers (18-22). Increased functional load of the epithelium caused by unilateral nephrectomy and diuretic (4-chlor-H [2-furylmethyl] 5-sulphamyl-antranic acid) injection changed the proportion of the different cell groups: group I decreased (about 25%), whereas groups II and III increased (about 8% and 17%, respectively). The increase of nucleolar activity first causes a deformation of the individual fibrillar centers as well as complication and growth of their surface. Further, a progressive fragmentation of the fibrillar centers and the growth of their total volume is observed. The complication and growth of the total volume of Ag-positive zones is another indication of the nucleolar activation. The vacuolar system develops by a gradual fusion of small isolated cavities into a united vacuolar network. Nucleoli with 2-7 fibrillar centers are considered to be intermediate forms reflecting successive stages of its activation or inactivation: from the resting ring-shaped nucleolus via transient stages of increasing functional activity to the active reticulated nucleoli and vice versa. The observed differences in the nucleolar ultrastructure are regarded as evidence of the functional heterogeneity of cell populations within one functional segment of nephron.