Kidney 1,25-dihydroxyvitamin D receptor (VDR) was examined in both young and aged male Fischer 344 rats. Cytosols prepared by direct homogenization of the kidney indicated no significant difference in the amount of unoccupied VDR in young (149 +/- 8 fmol/mg) and aged (155 +/- 8 fmol/mg) rats. Binding of kidney VDR to DNA-cellulose, however, was significantly different for the two groups. The assay indicated that about 44% and 24% of the VDR prepared from young and aged rats, respectively, were bound to calf thymus DNA. Elution profiles from DNA-cellulose chromatography displayed the presence of two peaks from young kidneys, while a single broad peak was evident from aged rats. Immunoblot analysis confirmed the existence of two receptor bands at 52K and 50K. The presence of the 50K band was greatly diminished or absent in aged samples. The 50K receptor form was observed to elute from DNA-cellulose at a higher salt concentration than the 52K-form. Similarly, prepared receptor extracts from intestinal tissue produced only a single band at 52K. These results demonstrate for the first time that the rat kidney possesses two forms of the receptor which have different affinities for DNA.