We studied the effects of dietary NaCl intake on the renal distal tubule by feeding rats high or low NaCl chow or by chronically infusing furosemide. Furosemide-treated animals were offered saline as drinking fluid to replace urinary losses. Effects of naCl intake were evaluated using free-flow micropuncture, in vivo microperfusion, and morphometric techniques. Dietary NaCl restriction did not affect NaCl delivery to the early distal tubule but markedly increased the capacity of the distal convoluted tubule to transport Na and Cl. Chronic furosemide infusion increased NaCl delivery to the early distal tubule and also increased the rates of Na and Cl transport above the rates observed in low NaCl diet rats. When compared with high NaCl intake alone, chronic furosemide infusion with saline ingestion increased the fractional volume of distal convoluted tubule cells by nearly 100%, whereas dietary NaCl restriction had no effect. The results are consistent with the hypotheses that (a) chronic NaCl restriction increases the transport ability of the distal convoluted tubule independent of changes in tubule structure, (b) high rates of ion delivery to the distal nephron cause tubule hypertrophy, and (c) tubule hypertrophy is associated with increases in ion transport capacity. They indicate that the distal tubule adapts functionally and structurally to perturbations in dietary Na and Cl intake.