Several haloalkenes are selective nephrotoxins. The bioactivation of nephrotoxic haloalkenes involves hepatic glutathione S-conjugate formation, peptidase-catalyzed metabolism of the glutathione S-conjugates to the corresponding cysteine S-conjugates, uptake of cysteine S-conjugates by the kidneys, and renal cysteine conjugate beta-lyase-catalyzed beta-elimination of a thiol. The haloalkyl and haloalkenyl thiols thus released are unstable and yield reactive intermediates whose interactions with cellular constituents are though to contribute to the observed toxicity of S-conjugates. Tetrafluoroethene and chlorotrifluoroethene are metabolized to the cysteine S-conjugates S-(1,1,2,2-tetrafluoroethyl)-L-cysteine (TFEC) and S-(2-chloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethyl)-L-cysteine (CTFC), respectively. Administration of TFEC (1.0 mmol/kg) or CTFC (1.0 mmol/kg) to rats resulted in acylation of renal proteins, as demonstrated with 19F nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy. Single, broad resonances near 41 or 56 ppm were found in spectra of renal proteins from TFEC- or CTFC-treated rats, respectively, and these resonances were not lost on dialysis. Renal protein incubated with 2-chloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethyl-2-nitrophenyl disulfide, a proreactive intermediate that yields 2-chloro-1,1,2-trifluoroethanethiol, showed the same 19F NMR spectrum as was found with CTFC-treated rats. In vitro incubation of various N alpha-blocked amino acids with this proreactive intermediate indicated that only lysine is stably adducted, whereas histidine is transiently acylated. In each case, proteolysis of modified protein converted a single broad NMR resonance to a doublet with little change in chemical shift and with clearly resolved, characteristic H-F couplings. The single, stable amino acid adduct formed with renal proteins of rats given CTFC or TFEC was N epsilon-(chlorofluorothioacetyl)lysine and N epsilon-(difluorothioacetyl)lysine, respectively.