Fluorescence scanning confocal microscopy was used in parallel with batch uptake and breakthrough measurements of transport rates to study the effect of ionic strength on the uptake of lysozyme into SP Sepharose FF. In all cases the adsorption isotherms were near-rectangular. As described previously, the intraparticle profiles changed from slow-moving self-sharpening fronts at low salt concentration, to fast-moving diffuse profiles at high salt concentration, and batch uptake rates correspondingly increased with increasing salt concentration. Shrinking core and homogeneous diffusion frameworks were used successfully to obtain effective diffusivities for the low salt and high salt conditions, respectively. The prediction of column breakthrough was generally good using these frameworks, except for low-salt uptake results. In those cases, the compressibility of the stationary phase coupled with the shrinking core behavior appears to reduce the mass transfer rates at particle-particle contacts, leading to shallower breakthrough curves. In contrast, the fast uptake rates at high ionic strength appear to reduce the importance of mass transfer limitations at the particle contacts, but the confocal results do show a flow rate dependence on the uptake profiles, suggesting that external mass transfer becomes more limiting at high ionic strength. These results show that the complexity of behavior observable at the microscopic scale is directly manifested at the column scale and provides a phenomenological basis to interpret and predict column breakthrough. In addition, the results provide heuristics for the optimization of chromatographic conditions. © 2005 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.