Pregnant Sprague-Dawley rats received subcutaneous injections of mercuric chloride (1-4 mg/kg) on either gestation day 7, 9, 11, or 13 to determine effects of altered maternal renal function on embryonic and fetal development. Maternal renal function, assessed by urinanalysis, was markedly disrupted for at least 48 hours after treatment and resulted in decreased maternal body weight gain. Residual effects on maternal kidney weight were evident on GD 21 when the females were killed and the fetuses removed and examined for visceral and skeletal development. We did not observe an increased incidence of malformations in the offspring for exposure on any day of gestation. Maternal exposure to mercuric chloride slightly impaired fetal growth over several gestational exposures periods and changed the pattern of rib formation when exposure occurred early in organogenesis. The extent of the changes could not, however, be related to the immediate degree or duration of altered maternal renal function. This study supports the concept that some specific forms of maternal toxicity may be associated with limited manifestations of developmental toxicity, but, in general, embryonic development was observed to proceed normally in the presence of marked disruptions in maternal renal physiology.