An H+-K+-ATPase contributes to hydrogen secretion and potassium reabsorption by the rat and rabbit collecting ducts. Transport of these ions appears to be accomplished by one or both of two isoforms of the H+-K+-ATPase, HKalpha(1) and HKalpha(2,) because both isoforms are found in the collecting ducts and transport of hydrogen and potassium is attenuated by exposure to inhibitors of these transport proteins. To evaluate whether an H+-K+-ATPase is present in the human kidney, immunohistochemical studies were performed using normal human renal tissue probed with antibodies directed against epitopes of three of the known isoforms of the H+-K+-ATPase , HKalpha(1), HKalpha(2), and HKalpha(4), and the V-type H+-ATPase. Cortical and medullary tissue probed with antibodies against HKalpha(1) showed cytoplasmic staining of intercalated cells that was less intense than that observed in the parietal cells of normal rat stomach stained with the same antibody. Also, weak immunoreactivity was detected in principal cells of the human collecting ducts. Cortical and medullary tissue probed with antibodies directed against HKalpha(4) revealed weak, diffuse staining of intercalated cells of the collecting ducts and occasional light staining of principal cells. Cortical and medullary tissue probed with antibodies directed against the H+-ATPase revealed staining of intercalated cells of the collecting ducts and some cells of the proximal convoluted tubules. By contrast, no discernible staining was noted with the use of the antibody against HKalpha(2). These data indicate that HKalpha(1) and HKalpha(4) are present in the collecting ducts of the human kidney. In this location, these isoforms might contribute to hydrogen and potassium transport by the kidney.