The effect of saline extracellular volume expansion (4 ml/min/10 kg b.w. X 60 min) on renal function has been studied in patients with cystic fibrosis (CF) and in normal age-matched controls. Basal values for glomerular filtration rate (GFR), renal plasma flow (RPF), tubular sodium and chloride (Na, Cl) handling were similar in both groups. Saline expansion resulted in an increase in GFR and RPF in the CF patients: 127 +/- 18 ml/min/1.73 sqm BSA to 166 +/- 5; p less than 0.001, but not in the control group: 112 +/- 10 to 120 +/- 20. These hemodynamic changes were associated with increased proximal tubular reabsorption of NaCl in the CF patients whereas controls had reduced NaCl reabsorption. Renin and aldosterone levels suggested that increased NaCl reabsorption in CF patients was not secondary to chronic extracellular volume contraction or salt loss. These results support the hypothesis that the renal tubule is involved in the generalised electrolyte transport disorder exhibited in other epithelial structures. This study also indicated that the regulation of renal hemodynamics is altered in CF. The relationship between the disorder of proximal tubular salt handling and changes in renal hemodynamics is not known, but the observed changes imply a tubulo-glomerular feedback mechanism.