Free-flow micropuncture experiments were performed to examine directly the effects of chronic hyperkalemia on renal ammonium production, urinary ammonium excretion, and proximal convoluted tubule ammonium transport in the rat in vivo. Munich-Wistar rats were pair-fed either a control or a high-K+ diet for 6-11 days. Chronic K+ loading was associated with an increase in plasma K+ concentration and significant systemic metabolic acidosis. Renal blood flow did not differ in control and high-K+ rats. In the hyperkalemic rats, urinary ammonium excretion was reduced by 40% and whole kidney ammonium production was reduced by 50% compared with controls. In contrast, chronic hyperkalemia had no significant effect on net ammonium transport by either the early or late segment of the proximal convoluted tubule. Chronic hyperkalemia also had no effect on the absolute rate of ammonium delivery to early or late proximal convoluted tubule sites. These results indicate that a change in renal ammonium production does not necessarily correlate with a change in proximal tubule ammonium transport and that reduced urinary ammonium excretion in chronic hyperkalemia is not due to impaired secretion of ammonium by the proximal convoluted tubule. Chronic hyperkalemia may reduce ammonium excretion by decreasing transfer of ammonium from proximal tubules to collecting ducts in the renal medulla.