An in vitro model was used to investigate the terminal differentiation mechanisms leading from embryonic to adult renal tissue. For these experiments the capsula fibrosa with adherent embryonic tissue was isolated from neonatal rabbit kidneys. These explants were mounted onto special tissue carriers and cultured in medium containing serum for 24 h. During that time collecting duct (CD) cells grew out and formed a monolayered epithelium covering the whole surface of the explant. The carriers were then transferred to perfusion culture containers to obtain an optimal degree of differentiation. A special type of container allowed us to continuously superfuse the epithelia with individual media on the luminal and basal sides. Using this method it became possible to culture embryonic CD epithelia in a fluid gradient for weeks. The epithelia were superfused with standard Iscove’s modified Dulbecco’s medium (IMDM) on the basal side, while IMDM containing additional NaCl was used on the luminal side. In controls IMDM was superfused on both the luminal and basal sides. It was found that the degree of differentiation in the CD epithelia is dependent on the influence of fluid gradient exposure. Perfusion culture under isotonic conditions revealed that less than 5% of cells were immunopositive for principal and intercalated cell features, while epithelia cultured in a luminal-basal gradient showed more than 80% positive cells. Immunoreactivity for characteristic markers started to develop after an unexpectedly long latent period of 3–6 days, then increased continuously during the following 5 days and reached a maximum on day 14. After switching back from the gradient to isotonic culture conditions the immunoreactivity for some markers decreased within 5 days, while other characteristic features remained stable. Thus, differentiation was not only under the control of growth factors but was also regulated by the electrolyte environment.