This study was performed to determine the effectiveness of the Rho kinase inhibitor and NF-kappaB inhibitor in renal injury of ANG II-infused hypertensive rats. Male Sprague-Dawley rats, maintained on a normal diet, received either a sham operation (n = 7) or continuous ANG II infusion (120 ng/min) subcutaneously via minipumps. The ANG II-infused rats were further subdivided into three subgroups (n = 7 each) to receive one of the following treatments during the entire period: vehicle, Rho kinase inhibitor (fasudil; 3 mg.kg(-1).day(-1) ip), or NF-kappaB inhibitor (parthenolide; 1 mg.kg(-1).day(-1) ip). After 12 days of ANG II infusion, systolic blood pressure (BP; 208 +/- 7 vs. 136 +/- 3 mmHg), Rho kinase activity, NF-kappaB activity, renal ANG II contents (160 +/- 25 vs. 84 +/- 14 pg/g), monocytic chemotactic protein (MCP) 1 mRNA, interstitial macrophage infiltration, transforming growth factor-beta1 (TGF-beta1) mRNA, interstitial collagen-positive area, urinary protein excretion (43 +/- 6 vs. 11 +/- 2 mg/day), and urinary albumin excretion were significantly enhanced compared with the Sham group. While fasudil or parthenolide did not alter systolic BP (222 +/- and 190 +/- 21, respectively), both treatments completely blocked ANG II-induced enhancement of NF-kappaB activity, renal ANG II contents (103 +/- 11 and 116 +/- 21 pg/g, respectively), MCP1 mRNA, interstitial macrophage infiltration, TGF-beta1 mRNA, interstitial collagen-positive area, urinary protein excretion (28 +/- 6 and 23 +/- 3 mg/day, respectively), and urinary albumin excretion. Importantly, parthenolide did not alter ANG II-induced Rho kinase activation although fasudil abolished ANG II-induced Rho kinase activation. These data indicate that the Rho-NF-kappaB axis plays crucial roles in the development of ANG II-induced renal injury independently from BP regulation.