Tamm-Horsfall protein (THP), a glycoprotein with a molecular weight of 95 kilodaltons, is produced and secreted in the ascending loop of Henle. To evaluate the measurement of THP in the assessment of fetal renal development and function, we stained fetal kidney sections for THP and measured THP concentrations in 129 amniotic fluid samples from healthy pregnancies, together with other parameters such as transferrin, albumin, alpha 1- and beta 2-microglobulin. After the 16th week of gestation THP could be detected immunohistochemically in the distal tubular cells, but was not consistently detected by sandwich enzyme immunoassay until after the 20th week of gestation (detection limit 50 ng/ml). Between the 15th and 19th week of gestation THP was only detected occasionally, but after the 20th week of gestation the concentration increased significantly reaching levels of 0.4-4 mg/l at term. The THP concentration was lower in samples taken directly before birth than in the corresponding first urine after birth, indicating that THP is produced from the fetal kidney only and does not pass the placental barrier. This pattern was different from other proteins studied. Transferrin and albumin were significantly lower in the first urine voided, microglobulins remained unchanged, and the creatinine concentration increased. This indicates that maternal to fetal exchange or transport is likely for most of the other proteins. Measurement of THP concentrations, in addition to other proteins in the amniotic fluid, can improve fetal renal assessment, but because the range of THP concentrations is wide accurate predictions are still not possible.