Experimental data consistently indicate that renal disease progression is fully prevented in proteinuric glomerulopathies by long-enough angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibition therapy. Whether regression of established proteinuria to normal can be achieved is, however, ill defined. The current study was designed with the aim to clarify whether ACE inhibition may induce regression of established proteinuria and renal structural damage in MWF rats, a genetic model of progressive proteinuria and renal injury. Animals treated with the ACE inhibitor lisinopril from 20 weeks of age (time when proteinuria is already important) and age-matched untreated rats were followed for 10 weeks. ACE inhibition normalized systolic blood pressure and progressively reduced proteinuria (from 172 +/- 79 to 81 +/- 23 mg/24 hours). In these animals, a highly significant correlation was obtained between baseline proteinuria and antiproteinuric response. At variance in untreated rats, proteinuria showed a marked increase in the 10-week follow-up period (from 165 +/- 57 to 325 +/- 86 mg/24 hours). Lisinopril prevented the progression of renal damage, as documented by a significantly lower incidence of glomeruli affected by sclerotic lesions (P < 0.01) than in untreated animals after the 10-week study period. Kidney tissue damage was comparable in lisinopril-treated rats and in untreated animals at 20 weeks of age, indicating that structural changes were arrested by the treatment. Thus, in proteinuric MWF rats, late-onset ACE inhibition normalized blood pressure, effectively and progressively restored high protein excretion rate toward normal values, and arrested progression of tissue damage.