In order to assess the influence of renal failure and nutritional status on the fasting concentrations of free plasma amino acids, we studied 81 ambulatory adult patients with varying degrees of chronic renal failure. Each of the patients was in good general and nutritional condition. Compared to 33 healthy controls, patients with mild renal failure (Ccr greater than 25 ml/mn) exhibited significantly (p less than 0.01, Student's t test) raised concentrations of cystine, citrulline, ornithine, taurine and 3-methyl-histidine and low level of serine. Concentrations of cystine, citrulline, and 3-methyl-histidine in plasma but not of taurine or ornithine rose in parallel with the progression of renal failure. A significant, but moderate decrease in valine, leucine and isoleucine concentrations was observed in patients with the most marked degree of renal failure (Ccr less than 10 ml/mn). We conclude that changes in the plasma concentration of several non essential amino acids are already present in the early stage of renal failure in patients with no sign of protein malnutrition: these may result from altered metabolic pathways of amino acids related to uremia and/or nephron loss per se whereas the moderate decrease in branched-chain amino acids that is observed only in the advanced stage of renal failure may be, at least in part, nutritional in origin.