To investigate whether the enhancement of thick ascending limb (TAL) NaCl transport in response to long-term increases in circulating vasopressin concentration is associated with increased expression levels of the apical Na-K-2Cl cotransporter in the rat TAL, we have carried out immunoblotting and immunofluorescence studies using affinity-purified, peptide-directed antibodies. Semiquantitative immunoblotting studies demonstrated a marked increase (193% of controls) in Na-K-2Cl cotransporter band density in response to restriction of water intake to 15 ml/day for 7 days. In contrast, the expression levels of two other apical proteins of the TAL (the type 3 Na/H exchanger and Tamm-Horsfall protein) were unchanged in the outer medulla. A 7-day subcutaneous infusion of the V2 receptor-selective vasopressin analog, 1-desamino-[8-D-arginine]vasopressin (DDAVP), to Brattleboro rats also markedly increased Na-K-2Cl cotransporter expression in the outer medulla (183% of controls). Immunofluorescence localization in outer medullary tissue sections confirmed the increase in Na-K-2Cl cotransporter expression in response to DDAVP. We conclude that vasopressin strongly upregulates the expression of the Na-K-2Cl cotransporter of the TAL and that it is likely to play an important role in the long-term regulation of the countercurrent multiplication system.