Osteopontin (OPN) is a macrophage chemotactic and adhesion molecule that acts to promote macrophage infiltration in rat anti-glomerular basement membrane (GBM) glomerulonephritis. The present study investigated the role of interleukin-1 (IL-1) in the upregulation of renal OPN expression in this disease model. Accelerated anti-GBM glomerulonephritis was induced in groups of six rats. Animals were treated by a constant infusion of the IL-1 receptor antagonist or saline (control) over days -1 to 14 (induction phase) or days 7 to 21 (established disease). In normal rat kidney, OPN was expressed in a few tubules (<5%) and absent from glomeruli. During the development of rat anti- GBM disease (days 7 to 21), there was substantial up-regulation of OPN mRNA and protein expression in glomeruli (>5 cells per glomerular cross-section) and tubular epithelial cells (50-75% OPN-positive). Up-regulation of OPN expression was associated with macrophage accumulation within the kidney, severe proteinuria, loss of renal function, and severe histological damage including glomerular crescentic formation and tubulointerstitial fibrosis. In contrast, IL-1 receptor antagonist treatment of either the induction phase of disease or established disease significantly reduced OPN mRNA and protein expression in glomeruli (↓ 75-85%, P < 0.001) and tubules (↓ 45-60%, P < 0.001). The reduction in OPN expression was associated with significant inhibition of macrophage accumulation and progressive renal injury. In vitro, the addition of IL-1 to the normal rat tubular epithelial cell line NRK52E up-regulated OPN mRNA and protein levels, an effect that was dose-dependent and inhibited by the addition of IL-1 receptor antagonist, thus demonstrating that IL-1 can act directly to up-regulate renal OPN expression. In conclusion, this study provides in vivo and in vitro evidence that IL-1 up- regulates OPN expression in experimental kidney disease and support for the argument that inhibition of OPN expression is one mechanism by which IL-1 receptor antagonist treatment suppresses macrophage-mediated renal injury.