Apoptosis is implicated in the progressive cell loss and fibrosis both at glomerular and tubulointerstitial level. In this study, we examined the potential mechanisms by which persistent proteinuria (protein-overload model) could induce apoptosis. After uninephrectomy (UNX), Wistar rats received daily injections of 0.5 g of bovine serum albumin (BSA)/100 g body weight or saline. Both at day 8 and day 28, rats receiving BSA had proteinuria and renal lesions characterized by tubular atrophy and/or dilation and mononuclear cell infiltration. In relation to control-UNX rats, renal cortex of nephritic rats showed an increment in AT2 mRNA (reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction) and protein (Western blot) expression. In both groups, AT2 receptor immunostaining was mainly localized in proximal tubular cells. Rats with persistent proteinuria showed a significantly increased number of terminal dUTP nick-end labeling positive apoptotic cells compared with UNX-controls, both in glomeruli and tubulointerstitium. Double staining for apoptosis and AT2 receptor showed that most terminal dUTP nick-end labeling positive cells were found in tubules expressing AT2 receptor. Using an antibody that recognizes the active form caspase-3, we observed an increment in caspase-3 activation in rats receiving BSA with respect to those receiving saline. Rats with persistent proteinuria showed a diminution in the phosphorylation of Bcl-2 with respect to UNX-controls both at day 8 and day 28. By contrast, no changes were observed either in the Bax or in the Bcl-2 protein levels. The administration of BSA to UNX rats induced a diminution in the phosphorylation of ERK with respect to UNX-control at all times studied. The changes observed in ERK activities took place without alterations of ERK1/2 protein levels. In summary, our data suggest that persistent proteinuria causes apoptosis in tubular cells through the activation of AT2 receptor, which can, in turn, inhibit MAP kinase (ERK1/2) activation and Bcl-2 phosphorylation.