We examined the expression of both the natriuretic peptides and natriuretic peptide receptors (NPR) in primary cultures of rat proximal tubular (RPT) cells using Northern blot assay for peptides and receptors and radioimmunoassay and immunohistochemical analysis for atrial natriuretic factor (ANF), brain natriuretic peptide (BNP), and C-type natriuretic peptide. Freshly isolated cells expressed mRNA coding for ANF, BNP, and the NPR-C. The presence of ANF and BNP in freshly isolated cells was confirmed by immunocytochemical staining. As cells approached confluence, there was a marked increase in mRNA expression for ANF and BNP. Immunocytochemical analysis and radioimmunoassay confirmed that both these peptides were co-localised in RPT cells and present in the cell supernatant. These changes in peptide expression were associated with a concurrent decrease in the expression of the NPR-C and the appearance of the NPR-A and -B. These results confirm that freshly isolated RPT cells possess the components of an autocrine natriuretic peptide system and that growth in primary culture is associated with changes in both peptide system and that growth in primary culture is associated with changes in both peptide and receptor subtype expression, raising the possibility that the endogenous production of ANF and BNP may be involved in the control of control cell growth.