A single intravenous injection of adriamycin (ADR) results in marked proteinuria and glomerular morphological changes that are similar to minimal-change disease in humans. We examined the effect of superoxide dismutase (SOD) on ADR-induced proteinuria. ADR in a dose of 7.5 mg/kg body weight significantly increased urinary protein by day 14; proteinuria rapidly increased thereafter. Concurrent administration of SOD (50 mg/kg) over 30 min prior to and 30 min following ADR injection markedly reduced proteinuria. Twenty-one days after the treatment with SOD, the amount of urinary protein was 108.6 +/- 43.1 mg/24 h in the experimental animals, while it was 221.6 +/- 102.9 mg/24 h in the ADR control group (p less than 0.05). There were also less severe glomerular morphologic changes in the SOD group versus ADR controls. The protective effects of SOD provide indirect evidence that oxygen free radicals are important mediators of ADR-induced proteinuria.