Several studies have clearly shown that extracellular volume expansion is associated with suppression of whole kidney bicarbonate reabsorption, although little is known concerning the single nephron correlates of this response. More recently, attention has also been focussed on bicarbonate transport in attempts to identify a possible role for this ion in enhancing the rate of net fluid efflux by proximal tubules. To further explore proximal tubular bicarbonate handling in the rat, we carried out recollection micropuncture studies to assess the effects of infusions of modified Ringer or salt-poor hyperoncotic human albumin. With stable levels of arterial PCO2, plasma [HCO3-] or plasma [K+], marked suppression of fractional HCO3- reabsorption occurred: during Ringer infusion fractional reabsorption fell by 31% (P less than 0.001) while during albumin infusion a decrease of 20% (P less than 0.001) was observed. Despite this, absolute net HCO3- reabsorptive rates did not change significantly. Simple and partial correlation analysis of single tubular responses revealed strong linkage effects between changes in absolute net reabsorptive rates for HCO3- and H2O in both types of infusion; the partial r was 0.91 (P less than 0.001) and 0.94 (P less than 0.001) during Ringer and albumin infusions, respectively. We conclude that under these free-flow conditions, Ringer and albumin infusions do not suppress absolute net HCO3- reabsorption by proximal tubules, and that strongly linked changes in absolute HCO3- and H2O fluxes are characteristic of both protocols.