Serum and urine uric acid were evaluated during prolonged therapeutic fasting in 15 obese patients. With increasing ketonemia the serum uric acid rose from a control value of 5.9 +/- 0.4 to 12.5 +/- 1.0 mg/100 ml at 7 days and then decreased progressively to 7.7 +/- 1.3 mg/100 ml by 28 days despite sustained ketonemia. The uric acid clearance were 5.5 +/- 0.9, 1.8 +/- 0.2, and 4.4 +/- 1.5 ml/min at days 0, 7, and 25 of fasting. At the same times the creatinine clearances were 114 +/- 11, 80 +/- 6, and 64 +/- 6.3 ml/min. There was no evidence of a renal tubular abnormality as assessed by glycosuria, bicarbonaturia, or increased phosphaturia. Urate binding to plasma proteins remained unchanged. Acute studies of the renal handling of uric acid revealed a uricosuric response to the administration of sodium lactate or sodium bicarbonate by intravenous infusion and low-dose acetylsalicylic acid orally. This renal tubular response departs significantly from that observed during the overnight fasted state and could not be accounted for by extracellular fluid volume expansion or the induced acid-base changes.