Background: Glomerular accumulation of macrophages/monocytes (M/M) is a typical early feature in the course of anti-thymocyte serum (ATS)-induced nephritis. We have previously shown that glomerular synthesis and expression of monocyte-chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) occurs before influx of M/M and a neutralizing anti-MCP-1 antibody reduced this cell infiltrate by one third. The present study was undertaken to test the effect of two angiotensin II type 1 (AT1) receptor antagonists, losartan and irbesartan, on ATS-stimulated MCP-1 expression as well as glomerular influx of M/M. Methods: Treatment of rats with either losartan or irbesartan was started 24 h before administration of ATS. After 24 h, MCP-1 mRNA expression was evaluated by RT-PCR and Northern blots. MCP-1 protein was determined by Western blots and chemotactic factors released from isolated glomeruli were measured by chemotactic assay. Kidney sections were stained for rabbit IgG, complement C3, and M/M (ED1 antigen). Results: Both AT1-receptor antagonists caused a significant, but not total reduction in MCP-1 mRNA and protein expression 24 h after injection of ATS. Treatment with losartan or irbesartan also reduced the chemotactic activity of isolated glomeruli from nephritic animals. Quantification of ED1-positive cells revealed that losartan as well as irbesartan reduced glomerular M/M invagination in nephritic rats by approximately 30–50%. However, treatment with AT1-receptor antagonists did not influence binding of ATS to mesangial cells and subsequent complement activation indicating that the attenuated MCP-1 expression is not due to differences in delivery and binding of ATS to mesangial cells. Conclusion: Our data indicate that short-term antagonism of AT1 receptors abolished the early glomerular MCP-1 expression and M/M influx. These results indicate that angiotensin II may exert immunomodulatory effects in vivo and adds a new mechanism showing how this vasopeptide may be involved in the pathogenesis of renal diseases.

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