Ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury associated with renal transplantation may influence both early graft function and late changes. The initial (</= 7 d) events of warm and in situ perfused cold ischemia of native kidneys in uninephrectomized rats were examined. mRNA expression of the early adhesion molecule, E-selectin, peaked within 6 h; PMNs infiltrated in parallel. T cells and macrophages entered the injured kidney by 2-5 d; the associated upregulation of MHC class II antigen expression suggested increased immunogenicity of the organ. Th1 products (IL-2, TNFalpha, IFNgamma) and macrophage-associated products (IL-1, IL-6, TGFbeta) remained highly expressed after 2 d. To examine directly the effects of selectins in I/R injury, a soluble P-selectin glycoprotein ligand (sPSGL) was used. Ischemic kidneys were perfused in situ with 5 microg of sPSGL in UW solution; 50 microg was administered intravenously 3 h after reperfusion. E-selectin mRNA remained at baseline, leukocytes did not infiltrate the injured organs throughout the 7-d period, and their associated products were markedly inhibited. Class II expression did not increase. No renal dysfunction secondary to I/R occurred. The early changes of I/R injury may be prevented by treatment with soluble P- and E-selectin ligand. This may reduce subsequent host inflammatory responses after transplantation.