The specificity, sensitivity and stability of beta 2-microglobulin (beta 2-m) and retinol-binding protein (RBP) in urine as indices of tubular proteinuria were compared. In vitro experiments show that RBP in urine is stable down to pH 4.5, whereas beta 2-m degrades below pH 5.5. This was confirmed by the relationships between pH and the concentration of both proteins in the urines from 150 healthy subjects. Urinary RBP was independent of pH (r = 0.125) but in contrast at pH below 6, beta 2-m concentration was inversely correlated with pH (r = 0.54, p less than 0.05). The comparison of urinary excretion of RBP and beta 2-m in 68 patients with renal diseases shows that in absence of a pH effect, the sensitivity and specificity of both proteins as indices of tubular proteinuria are rather similar. Therefore, in view of its greater stability in urine, RBP appears to be a more practical and reliable index of proximal tubular function than beta 2-m.