It was recently reported that low blood lead levels impaired kidney function in men. To develop a set of molecular markers of renal lead exposure and effect, we investigated changes in renal protein expression while approximating occupational lead exposure at subchronic, low blood levels. Lead was administered to male Dutch Belted rabbits as a lead acetate solution adjusted weekly to achieve and maintain the target blood lead levels of 0, 20, 40, and 80 microg/dL for 15 weeks. Lead exposure did not affect kidney or body weights. The effect of increasing blood lead on protein expression was evaluated in rabbit kidney by large-scale two-dimensional electrophoresis (2-DE). Significant quantitative changes (p < 0.05) occurred in a dose-related manner in 12 proteins a1 20 microg/dL exposure, 25 at 40 microg/dL, and 102 at 80 microg/dL. At a higher level of significance (p < 0.001), 40 microg/dL blood lead resulted in one protein alteration and 80 )microg/dL affected 14 proteins. A set of quantitatively altered charge variants was tentatively identified as glutathione-S-transferase (GST), based on similar observations in rodents subjected to short-term, very high lead exposure. The significance of the protein alterations observed as markers of toxicity awaits their conclusive identification. Investigation of the kidney 2-DE profile in lead-exposed rabbit may be useful in understanding the mechanism of lead nephrotoxicity in humans.