Intraglomerular hypertension is a primary causal factor in the progressive glomerulosclerosis that characterizes diabetic nephropathy or severe renal ablation. However, inflammation of the glomerular mesangium also participates in at least the early phase of these diseases. In glomerulonephritis, where inflammation is thought to be the predominant causal factor, intraglomerular hypertension is also often present. Mesangial cells (MCs) are critical in orchestrating key functions of the glomerulus including extracellular matrix metabolism, cytokine production, and interaction with leukocytes. Because MCs are subject to increased stretching when intraglomerular hypertension is present, and in glomerulonephritis MC/leukocyte interactions seem to be mediated primarily via the up-regulation of intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (ICAM-1), we examine the possibility that cyclic stretching is a stimulus for increased MC ICAM-1 activity. We demonstrate that the normal low levels of MC ICAM-1 mRNA and protein are dramatically up-regulated by even short intervals of cyclic stretch. This effect is dose- and time-dependent, and requires little amplitude and a brief period of elongation for significant induction. Stretch-induced MC ICAM-1 also leads to a marked elevation in phagocytic leukocyte adherence. This stimulated adherence is equal or greater than that induced by the inflammatory cytokine tumor necrosis factor-alpha, whereas an additive effect occurs when both are applied in combination. Our results indicate that stretch-induced ICAM-1 may provide a direct link between hypertension and inflammation in the progression of injury and glomerulosclerosis in diabetes, renal ablation, and other forms of glomerulonephritis.