The present studies examined the role and mechanism of action of infiltrating T lymphocytes in the kidney during salt-sensitive hypertension. Infiltrating T lymphocytes in the Dahl salt-sensitive (SS) kidney significantly increased from 7.2 ± 1.8 × 10(5) cells/2 kidneys to 18.2 ± 3.9 × 10(5) cells/2 kidneys (n = 6/group) when dietary NaCl was increased from 0.4 to 4.0%. Furthermore, the expression of immunoreactive p67(phox), gp91(phox), and p47(phox) subunits of NADPH oxidase was increased in T cells isolated from the kidneys of rats fed 4.0% NaCl. The urinary excretion of thiobarbituric acid-reactive substances (TBARS; an index of oxidative stress) also increased from 367 ± 49 to 688 ± 92 nmol/day (n = 8/group) when NaCl intake was increased in Dahl SS rats. Studies were then performed on rats treated with a daily injection of vehicle (5% dextrose) or tacrolimus (0.25 mg·kg(-1)·day(-1) ip), a calcineurin inhibitor that suppresses immune function, during the period of high-NaCl intake (n = 5/group). In contrast to the immune cell infiltration, increased NADPH oxidase expression, and elevated urine TBARS excretion in vehicle-treated Dahl SS fed high salt, these parameters were unaltered as NaCl intake was increased in Dahl SS rats administered tacrolimus. Moreover, tacrolimus treatment blunted high-salt mean arterial blood pressure and albumin excretion rate (152 ± 3 mmHg and 20 ± 9 mg/day, respectively) compared with values in dextrose-treated Dahl SS rats (171 ± 8 mmHg and 74 ± 28 mg/day). These experiments indicate that blockade of infiltrating immune cells is associated with decreased oxidative stress, an attenuation of hypertension, and a reduction of renal damage in Dahl SS rats fed high salt.