p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling promotes diabetic kidney injury. Apoptosis signal-regulating kinase (ASK)1 is one of the upstream kinases in the p38 MAPK-signaling pathway, which is activated by inflammation and oxidative stress, suggesting a possible role for ASK1 in diabetic nephropathy. In this study, we examined whether a selective ASK1 inhibitor can prevent the induction and progression of diabetic nephropathy in mice. Diabetes was induced in hypertensive endothelial nitric oxide synthase (Nos3)-deficient mice by five low-dose streptozotocin (STZ) injections. Groups of diabetic Nos3(-/-) mice received ASK1 inhibitor (GS-444217 delivered in chow) as an early intervention (2-8 weeks after STZ) or late intervention (weeks 8-15 after STZ). Control diabetic and nondiabetic Nos3(-/-) mice received normal chow. Treatment with GS-444217 abrogated p38 MAPK activation in diabetic kidneys but had no effect upon hypertension in Nos3(-/-) mice. Early intervention with GS-444217 significantly inhibited diabetic glomerulosclerosis and reduced renal dysfunction but had no effect on the development of albuminuria. Late intervention with GS-444217 improved renal function and halted the progression of glomerulosclerosis, renal inflammation, and tubular injury despite having no effect on established albuminuria. In conclusion, this study identifies ASK1 as a new therapeutic target in diabetic nephropathy to reduce renal inflammation and fibrosis independent of blood pressure control.