The purpose of this investigation was to determine whether the pharmacokinetics of the angiotensin II receptor antagonist losartan is altered in renal failure. Male Wistar rats were pretreated with uranyl nitrate or subjected to bilateral ureteral ligation to produce acute renal failure (ARF). Saline-injected and sham-operated rats, respectively, served as controls. Uranyl nitrate-treated rats showed significantly higher serum concentrations of losartan after oral administration and the area under the serum concentration-time curve (AUC(0-24)) of losartan increased about 3-fold compared to control rats. The systemic clearance of losartan significantly decreased from 410 +/- 254ml/h/kg in control to 177 +/- 112ml/h/kg in uranyl nitrate-treated rats. In order to investigate the mechanisms of reduced clearance of losartan associated with ARF, a hepatic microsome fraction was prepared from normal and ARF rats. No significant difference was found in the metabolism of losartan by hepatic microsomes prepared from ARF and control rats. In addition, the metabolic activity of microsomes was examined in the presence of uremic rat serum. The unbound clearance of losartan and the unbound clearance associated with the formation of EXP3174 in the presence of uremic serum were significantly lower than those in the presence of control serum. Furthermore, the metabolism of losartan was inhibited by indoxyl sulfate, a uremic toxin, in an uncompetitive manner. These results suggest that ARF is associated with reduced clearance of losartan due to the inhibition of hepatic metabolism by accumulated uremic toxin(s).