A physiological explanation for sustained hyperosmolality was sought in a patient with histiocytosis. During 23 days of observation with only sodium intake regulated at 100 mEq daily, elevation (mean 310 mOsm/kg of water) and fluctuation (range 298-323) of the fasting plasma osmolality were recorded. The presence of endogenous vasopressin was indicated by the patient's ability to concentrate the urine to as high as 710 mOsm/kg of water with a creatinine clearance of 84 cc/min, and by dilution of the urine in response to alcohol. The failure of increasing fluid intake to as high as 6.2 liters daily to lower the plasma osmolality indicated that deficient fluid intake was not solely responsible for the elevated plasma osmolality. Hypertonic saline infusion during water diuresis resulted in the excretion of an increased volume of dilute urine. The water diuresis continued despite a rise in plasma osmolality from 287 to 339. An isotonic saline infusion initiated during hydropenia resulted in a water diuresis which continued despite a rise in the plasma osmolality from 303 to 320. Stable water diuresis induced during recumbency by either oral ingestion of water or intravenous infusion of normal saline was terminated by orthostasis and resumed with the return to the recumbent position. Antecedent alcohol ingestion blocked the antidiuresis of orthostasis. The data are interpreted as indicating impairment of the osmoreceptor mechanism as the primary cause of the hyperosmolar syndrome. They also indicate that vasopressin secretion was regulated primarily by changes in effective blood volume. Chlorpropamide was found to be an effective treatment for the syndrome.