The administration of the aminonucleoside of puromycin (PAN) to rats causes the nephrotic syndrome that is associated with an acute decline in renal function, and an interstitial infiltrate. We examined whether essential fatty acid deficiency (EFAD), which inhibits macrophage infiltration in glomerulonephritis, affects PAN-induced renal dysfunction. Both control and EFAD rats developed proteinuria that resolved over 28 d. After PAN administration, there was a prominent infiltration of macrophages in rats fed a normal diet. The infiltrate was prevented by the EFAD diet. The absence of a macrophage interstitial infiltrate was associated with a significantly higher Cin in the EFAD rats than in controls at 7 d (5.21 +/- 1.19 versus 0.39 +/- 0.08, P less than 0.002 ml/min/kg BW). In addition, CPAH fell to less than 10 ml/min/kg BW by day 7 in controls, but remained the same as normal in the EFAD. After administration of PAN to control rats, there was no increase in urinary thromboxane excretion or an increase in glomerular thromboxane production. Furthermore, the effect of EFAD could not be mimicked by the administration of a thromboxane synthase inhibitor. Irradiation-induced leukopenia in rats on a normal diet markedly improved glomerular filtration and renal blood flow in acutely nephrotic rats. EFAD prevents the interstitial cellular infiltrate and the renal ischemia associated with experimental nephrosis. The recruitment of mononuclear cells into the kidney following PAN directly contributes to the decline in renal function.