A rare syndrome has been described in which mineralocorticoid-resistant hyperkalemia of renal origin occurs in the absence of glomerular insufficiency and renal sodium wasting and in which hyperchloremic acidosis, hypertension, and hyporeninemia coexist. The primary abnormality has been postulated to be a defect of the potassium secretory mechanism of the distal nephron. The present studies were carried out to investigate the mechanism of impaired renal potassium secretion in a patient with this syndrome. When dietary intake of sodium chloride was normal, renal clearance of potassium was subnormal (CK/GFR = 3.6 +/- 0.2%; normal subjects, 9.0 +/- 0.9%, N = 4) despite high normal or supernormal levels of plasma and urinary aldosterone. The fractional clearance of potassium remained subnormal (CK/GFR = 5.1 +/- 0.2%) during superimposed chronic administration of superphysiologic doses of mineralocorticoid hormone. Little increase in renal potassium clearance occurred when the delivery of sodium to distal nephron segments was increased further by the i.v. infusion of sodium chloride, despite experimentally sustained hypermineralocorticoidism. But potassium clearance increased greatly when delivery of sodium to the distal nephron was increased by infusion of nonchloride anions: sulfate (sodium sulfate infusion, low sodium chloride diet; CK/GFR = 63.7 +/- 0.4%) or bicarbonate (sodium bicarbonate plus acetazolamide infusion; CK/GFR = 81.7 +/- 1.7%). These findings indicate that mineralocorticoid-resistant renal hyperkalemia in this patient cannot be attributed to the absence of a renal potassium secretory capability or to diminished delivery of sodium to distal nephron segments; instead it may be dependent on chloride delivery to the distal nephron. We suggest that the primary abnormality in this syndrome increases the reabsorptive avidity of the distal nephron for chloride, which (1) limits the sodium and mineralocorticoid-dependent voltage driving force for potassium and hydrogen ion secretion, resulting in hyperkalemia and acidosis and (2) augments distal sodium chloride reabsorption resulting in hyperchloremia, volume expansion, hyporeninemia, and hypertension.