We compared the antihypertensive and renoprotective effects of the angiotensin II receptor antagonist losartan and the calcium channel blocker verapamil in the rat with chronic renal failure. One month after five-sixths nephrectomy, male WKY rats were treated for 2 months with either losartan or verapamil. Both resulted in a similar reduction in blood pressure: from 147.1 to 112 mm Hg in losartan-treated and from 155 to 118 mm Hg (p = NS) in verapamil-treated rats. Losartan improved the creatinine clearance (difference + 17.1% as compared with + 6.6% for verapamil, p = 0.039) and prevented the increase in proteinuria: 12.26 +/- (SE) 2.33 mg/day before and 18.48 +/- 2.19 mg/day (p = NS) after therapy in the losartan-treated and 17.27 +/- 2.73 mg/day before and 32.27 +/- 10.29 mg/day after therapy (p = 0.0484) in the verapamil-treated group. In addition, losartan resulted in minimal mesangial proliferation and significantly less glomerular sclerosis and thickening of the small arterial and arteriolar walls. The changes in interstitial fibrosis and tubular hypertrophy, however, were similar in both the verapamil- and losartan-treated groups. Treatment with losartan 1 month after five-sixths nephrectomy in male WKY rats resulted in reduced blood pressure, similar to that of the verapamil-treated group. However, despite similar antihypertensive properties, losartan improved creatinine clearance and reduced proteinuria. The losartan-treated group also had a marked reduction in mesangial proliferation and less glomerular sclerosis and less reduced vascular wall thickness in renal small arteries and arterioles. However, losartan did not totally eliminate nephrosclerosis. The tubular and interstitial changes were fewer in the losartan-treated group. Thus losartan has an additional, although only partial, renoprotective effect when compared with verapamil.