The immediate effect of cisplatin on rat proximal tubular function was investigated by two different methods, the lithium clearance method and the occlusion time-transit time method (TT-OT). Within minutes after administration of cisplatin a significant increase in lithium clearance, fractional lithium clearance (CLi/Cin) and e-TT/OT was observed (from 270 +/- 32 to 387 +/- 60 microliters/min/g kidney weight, 0.202 +/- 0.03 to 0.340 +/- 0.06 and 0.415 +/- 0.02 to 0.497 +/- 0.02, respectively). These increases indicate an increased fluid delivery from both the proximal straight segment and the late proximal convoluted tubule after cisplatin administration. Concomitantly absolute proximal reabsorption rate was significantly decreased. Intervention by saline loading (2% of body weight) did not prevent the increase in e-TT/OT, but the increase in CLi/Cin was significantly less than in the control group. This finding suggests that saline loading protects either the pars recta of the proximal tubule or the juxtamedullary nephrons. Thus, cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity in the rat is initiated by an acute mainly proximal tubular impairment including both pars convoluta and pars recta of the proximal tubule.