This review summarizes the development of exclusion chromatography, also termed gel filtration, molecular-sieve chromatography and gel permeation chromatography, for the quantitative characterization of solutes and solute interactions. As well as affording a means of determining molecular mass and molecular mass distribution, the technique offers a convenient way of characterizing solute selfassociation and solute-ligand interactions in terms of reaction stoichiometry and equilibrium constant. The availability of molecular-sieve media with different selective porosities ensures that very little restriction is imposed on the size of solute amenable to study. Furthermore, access to a diverse array of assay procedures for monitoring the column eluate endows analytical exclusion chromatography with far greater flexibility than other techniques from the viewpoint of solute concentration range that can be examined. In addition to its widely recognized prowess as a means of solute separation and purification, exclusion chromatography thus also possesses considerable potential for investigating the functional roles of the purified solutes. (C) 2003 Elsevier Science B.V. All rights reserved.