Injection of anti-Thy-1 antibody into a rat induces immediate glomerular cell death and subsequent development of glomerulonephritis. Whether the immediate cell death in this model is apoptotic has yet to be determined. Recent in vivo studies on thymocyte death have elucidated that the Thy-1 molecule can activate intracellular signaling for apoptosis. This observation prompted us to re-examine whether stimulation with anti-Thy-1 antibody can provoke apoptosis in the rat glomerulus. We found that anti-Thy-1 antibody could induce laddered DNA fragmentation of isolated glomeruli and mesangial cells in culture, definite biochemical evidence for random double-stranded breaks through apoptosis. Such DNA laddering was also demonstrated in the isolated glomeruli of rats that had been infused with anti-Thy-1 antibody several hours before. Furthermore, the terminal deoxynucleotidyl-transferase-mediated oligonucleotide nick end labeling technique stained a cell in the mesangium. Although apoptosis may be considered a candidate mechanism mediating resolution of hypercellularity in the anti-Thy-1 model, we propose that it is also involved in the immediate cell death in this model.