The incidence of urinary tract infection is higher in the geriatric population than in younger adults despite the exclusion of patients with known risk factors. Tamm-Horsfall protein, a renal glycoprotein excreted in urine, may constitute a natural defense mechanism against ascending urinary tract infection by binding mannose-sensitive fimbriated microorganisms. We hypothesized that the quantity of Tamm-Horsfall protein excreted is decreased in the elderly. Native aggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein was measured in urine samples from 24 young women (group 1, mean age 33 years) and 47 female nursing home patients (group 2, mean age 84 years) using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay techniques. Another 16 elderly women (group 3, mean age 85 years) had active urinary tract infection. The aggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein was then disaggregated by dilution and quantified. Significant differences in mean urinary disaggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein concentrations were found between groups 1 (64.22 mg./l.) and 2 (35.07 mg./l.), and between groups 1 and 3 (34.71 mg./l.), respectively. In contrast, mean aggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein levels were significantly higher in group 2 (1.56 mg./l.) than in group 1 (0.92 mg./l.) or group 3 (0.97 mg./l.). Our studies show that urinary disaggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein concentration is decreased in the elderly, and that aggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein is increased compared to younger adults. The aggregated Tamm-Horsfall protein concentration is decreased in the elderly during episodes of urinary tract infection.