Glomerular size-selective properties in animals made nephrotic by adriamycin (ADR) injection and fed standard (20% protein) or high-protein (35% protein) diets were investigated using dextran fractional clearances. To interpret filtration and dextran-sieving data, a theoretical approach previously developed for analysis of experimental data in healthy and nephrotic humans was used. Four types of hypothetical pore-radius distributions were compared in order to establish the best tool for describing membrane pore structure in normal and nephrotic rats. This analysis revealed that a spread distribution of pores, the lognormal probability distribution, is the most adequate in representing membrane intrinsic characteristics. ADR animals on standard diet developed massive proteinuria and a lower glomerular filtration rate (GFR) than control animals. High-protein feeding in ADR rats induced a further increase in urinary protein excretion and in GFR. Dextran fractional clearance was more elevated for larger dextran fractions (greater than 46 A) in ADR animals on the standard diet than in control rats. No differences were observed in dextran-sieving curves between ADR rats on the standard and high-protein diet. Theoretical analysis of filtration and fractional clearance data revealed comparable changes in the intrinsic parameters of glomerular size selectivity in the two groups of nephrotic animals. These observations indicate that increased traffic of plasma proteins through the glomerular capillary wall does not imply, in our experimental condition, a further loss of glomerular size-selective properties. The greater urinary protein excretion of ADR animals on high-protein diet than ADR animals on a standard diet cannot be explained by further impairment of glomerular size selectivity but more likely reflects hemodynamic changes.