The effects of drug stability, radioactive tracer purity, buffer composition, protein concentration, and fluid shifts on the nonlinear plasma protein binding of prednisolone were examined by equilibrium dialysis. Prednisolone exhibits a concentration-dependent degradation; however, the limited extent of this does not affect protein binding. Impure tritiated prednisolone used as a tracer produces incorrect, low fractional binding values with the binding parameters generated for transcortin affected more than those for albumin. Isotonic sodium phosphate and Krebs original Ringer phosphate buffers yield similar fractional binding of prednisolone and identical protein binding parameters. Fractional binding of the steroid decreases with total plasma protein concentration, but the association constants remain constant over a twofold dilution of plasma proteins. Further dilution increases these parameters. A time-dependent colloidal osmotic fluid shift during dialysis causes dilution of plasma protein concentrations and diminished drug binding. Theoretical simulations show that the osmotic fluid shifts produce the largest changes in fractional binding for compounds that are bound by low-capacity proteins with low association constants (K less than 10(6) M-1). A mathematical equation was developed to correct bound drug concentrations and fraction bound for protein dilution caused by this effect. The fluid shifts can be prevented by the addition of dextran (mol. wt. 70,000) to the dialysis buffer in a concentration of 55% of the total protein concentration. Multiple factors can diminish the nonlinear prednisolone binding as artifacts during equilibrium dialysis, but the changes are relatively modest.