A rat model was utilized to compare the nephrotoxic potential of gentamicin and tobramycin. Gentamicin, 40 mg/kg per day, predictably produced renal failure and morphological evidence of proximal tubular necrosis over 14 days of treatment. An identical dosage of tobramycin was associated with only minimal morphological changes and normal concentrations of serum creatinine and blood urea nitrogen. Similar results were obtained even after the tobramycin dosage was tripled to 120 mg/kg per day. A decrease in urine osmolality, mechanism unknown, was observed in all aminoglycoside-treated rats, but the lowest osmolalities were found in the gentamicin-treated rats. According to both histological criteria and renal function measurements, gentamicin was more nephrotoxic than tobramycin in this animal model.