We report that the beta-chemokine RANTES, a chemoattractant for macrophages and T cells, is up-regulated in the MRL-Fas(1pr) kidney prior to injury, but not normal kidneys (MRL-++, C3H-++) and increases with progressive injury. Furthermore, we establish an association between RANTES expression in the kidney and renal damage using a gene transfer approach. Tubular epithelial cells genetically modified to secrete RANTES infused under the renal capsule incites interstitial nephritis in MRL-Fas(1pr), but not MRL-++ or C3H-++ mice. RANTES recruits predominantly macrophages (M phi) and CD4+ and CD8+ T cells. In contrast, gene transfer of CSF-1, another molecule up-regulated simultaneously with RANTES in MRL-Fas(1pr) kidneys, promotes the influx of M phi, CD4+ T cells and the unique double-negative (DN) T cells (CD4-, CD8-), which are prominent in diseased MRL-Fas(1pr) kidneys. Thus, RANTES and CSF-1 recruit distinct T cell populations into the MRL-Fas(1pr) kidney. In addition, delivery of RANTES and CSF-1 into the kidney of MRL-Fas(1pr) mice causes an additive increase in pathology. We suggest that the complementary recruitment of T cell populations by RANTES (CD4, CD8) and CSF-1 (CD4, DN) promotes autoimmune nephritis in MRL-Fas(1pr) mice.