The effects of acute and chronic exposure to lead on glutathione S-transferase (GST) isoforms were determined in developing kidney in the rat. The ontogeny of glutathione S-transferase isoforms was characterized as were the effects of depletion of dietary calcium on glutathione S-transferase isoform profiles in control and lead-treated rats. In the acute exposure experiments, rats of 14 and 50 days of age received three daily injections of lead acetate (114 mg/kg) and in the chronic exposure studies, rats received lead acetate at doses ranging from 50 to 500 ppm in their drinking water. Lead acetate administration in these chronic studies began 1 day after conception. Acute and chronic lead exposure had similar effects, causing increases in all but one glutathione S-transferase isoform (Yb3); these increases were markedly exacerbated by dietary calcium depletion. In all lead paradigms, GST subunits Yb1 and Yp showed the largest increases-greater than 25-fold in rats fed a low-calcium diet. GST subunit Yb3 showed small increases in the 14-day acute lead and the 4 week low-calcium animals and did not increase in other groups. Lead-related increases in GSTs were partially reversed by transferring animals previously receiving lead to lead-free water for a 4-week period. Kidneys of rats fed the low-calcium diet did not have detectable GST Yk, but in rats on this low-calcium diet that received 500 ppm lead; this GST isoform was found at levels comparable to those in control rats fed lab chow.