The effect of protein depletion and refeeding with a normal diet on calpain activity was examined in mouse kidney soluble homogenate. In terms of units per gram of protein, it increased 2.9 times with depletion and decreased upon refeeding. After a DEAE-Sephacel chromatography, the homogenate yielded three enzymatic activities. Their sum, assessed as total calpain activity, was higher than the activity measured before fractionation and did not appreciably change during protein depletion and refeeding. Because the proportion of total activity displayed by the complete homogenate increased with depletion and decreased with refeeding, a low calpastatin content in depleted kidney was envisaged. This was confirmed by direct estimations: depleted kidney had 6 times less calpastatin compared to both normal and 16 h refed tissue. We concluded that a decrease in calpastatin content contributes to an increased calpain activity related to degradable protein in protein depleted kidney. In view of this, it seems not unlikely that the in vivo rate of protein breakdown depicted by kidney during protein depletion and refeeding is in part effected through modulation of the calpain proteolytic system.