The NaCl reflection coefficient in proximal tubule has important implications for the mechanisms of near isosmotic volume reabsorption. A new fluorescence method was developed and applied to measure the transepithelial (sigma NaClTE) and basolateral membrane (sigma NaClcl) NaCl reflection coefficients in the isolated proximal straight tubule from rabbit kidney. For sigma NaClTE measurement, tubules were perfused with buffers containing 0 Cl, the Cl-sensitive fluorescent indicator 6-methoxy-N-[3-sulfopropyl] quinolinium and a Cl-insensitive indicator fluorescein sulfonate, and bathed in buffers of differing cryoscopic osmolalities containing NaCl. The transepithelial Cl gradient along the length of the tubule was measured in the steady state by a quantitative ratio imaging technique. A mathematical model based on the Kedem-Katchalsky equations was developed to calculate the axial profile of [Cl] from tubule geometry, lumen flow, water (Pf) and NaCl (PNaCl) permeabilities, and sigma NaClTE. A fit of experimental results to the model gave PNaCl = (2.25 +/- 0.2) x 10(-5) cm/s and sigma NaClTE = 0.98 +/- 0.03 at 23 degrees C. For measurement of sigma NaClbl, tubule cells were loaded with SPQ in the absence of Cl. NaCl solvent drag was measured from the time course of NaCl influx in response to rapid (less than 1 s) Cl addition to the bath solution. With bath-to-cell cryoscopic osmotic gradients of 0, -60, and +30 mosmol, initial Cl influx was 1.23, 1.10, and 1.25 mM/s; a fit to a mathematical model gave sigma NaClbl = 0.97 +/- 0.04. These results indicate absence of NaCl solvent drag in rabbit proximal tubule. The implications of these findings for water and NaCl movement in proximal tubule are evaluated.