The apoptosis of glomerular mesangial cells (GMCs) in rat Thy-1 nephritis (Thy-1N), a model of human mesangioproliferative glomerulonephritis (MsPGN), is accompanied by sublytic C5b-9 deposition. However, the mechanism by which sublytic C5b-9 induces GMC apoptosis is unclear. In the present studies, the effect of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis-associated factor 1 (XAF1) expression on GMC apoptosis and the role of p300 and interferon regulatory factor-1 (IRF-1) in mediating XAF1 gene activation were determined, both in the GMCs induced by sublytic C5b-9 (in vitro) and in the renal tissues of rats with Thy-1N (in vivo). The in vitro studies demonstrated that IRF-1-enhanced XAF1 gene activation and its regulation by p300-mediated IRF-1 acetylation were involved in GMC apoptosis induced by sublytic C5b-9. The element of IRF-1 binding to XAF1 promoter and two acetylated sites of IRF-1 protein were also revealed. In vivo, silence of p300, IRF-1 or XAF1 genes in the renal tissues diminished GMC apoptosis and secondary GMC proliferation as well as urinary protein secretion in Thy-1N rats. Together, these data implicate that sublytic C5b-9 induces the expression of both p300 and IRF-1, as well as p300-dependent IRF-1 acetylation that may contribute to XAF1 gene activation and subsequent GMC apoptosis in Thy-1N rats.