1. The effects of amiloride and frusemide on lithium clearance were studied during changes in dietary sodium chloride intake and during infusion of 0.9% NaCl in normal human volunteers.
2. Lithium and fractional lithium clearances were less on the low than on the high salt diet. Values for the medium salt diet were intermediate. Acute extracellular fluid volume expansion with 0.9% NaCl infusion and extracellular fluid volume contraction 3–4 h after intravenous frusemide caused lithium and fractional lithium clearances to increase and decrease respectively.
3. Amiloride caused small changes in lithium and fractional lithium clearances on a low salt diet, but was without effect when salt intake was medium or high.
4. Increases in lithium clearance occurred immediately after frusemide irrespective of dietary salt intake and in subjects infused with 0.9% NaCl. Only in salt-depleted subjects did frusemide cause a substantial increase in fractional lithium clearance. Changes induced under other circumstances were small.
5. It is concluded that the lithium clearance method for assessment of proximal tubule salt and water re-absorption can be used with some degree of confidence in certain circumstances (medium and high salt intake as well as in acute volume expansion) but may not be reliable when dietary salt intake is low.