The water permeability of collecting ducts is greatly increased by the antidiuretic hormone, vasopressin. This permeability increase is associated with the appearance of intramembrane particle (IMP) clusters on the luminal plasma membranes of principal cells of the collecting duct epithelium. IMP aggregates have also been related to an increase in water permeability of two other vasopressin-sensitive epithelia, the amphibian urinary bladder and the amphibian epidermis, and it has been proposed that these specialized membrane domains might represent specific water-permeable membrane patches, induced by the hormone in their respective epithelia. Using a cytochemical probe for membrane cholesterol, filipin, we show here that the membrane patches in rat kidney are selectively devoid of filipin-sterol complexes and that when identified in thin sections, they have a cytoplasmic bristle coat: both of these features are characteristics of coated pits which, in other systems, are involved in receptor-mediated endocytosis. We also show that vasopressin induces the appearance of coated pits on collecting duct luminal membranes in Brattleboro homozygous rats, which have hereditary diabetes insipidus.