Renal tubular handling of P, Ca, Mg and Na was studied in the rat both before and during mild hypertonic NaCl loading (ECVE), using micropuncture and clearance techniques and electron microprobe analysis. Micropuncture was performed at the late proximal and early distal tubule sites. ECVE significantly increased the urinary output of all four elements. In the case of Mg, the increase was relatively small and depended on slight but statistically unsignificant inhibition of reabsorption all along the entire length of the nephron. For Ca, it depended on the inhibition of proximal reabsorption, partially compensated by increased reabsorption along the loop. For P, it depended on proximal inhibition, no important net phosphate movement occurring in the loop during both periods. Ca reabsorption was highly correlated to that of sodium along the proximal tubule and Henel's loop, Ca and Mg reabsorption were closely related to the load delivered at the beginning of the structure. These observations are compatible with the view that tubular reabsorption of Ca and Mg is concentration rather than Tm limited, and that reabsorption of Ca, unlike that of Mg, is linked to the movements of sodium. Following ECVE, the difference between early distal and urinary deliveries increased significantly for Ca and P, but not for Mg. For phosphate, this difference accounted for by 45% of the delivery at the early distal tubule site, at variance with microinjection data obtained in the rat under similar salt loading conditions, which indicated that 17% only of the phosphate distal delivery were reabsorbed along the terminal segments. This discrepancy is discussed in terms of nephron functional heterogeneity.