It has been proposed that the macula densa participates in the regulation of increased renin expression in renovascular hypertension (RVH) and that prostaglandins may be among the mediators of macula densa function. We have previously shown that in renal cortex, cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) expression is localized to the macula densa and surrounding cortical thick ascending limb and increases in high-renin states, such as salt restriction and angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibition. In the present studies, we examined the effect of the selective COX-2 inhibitor SC58236 on plasma renin activity (PRA) and renal renin expression in RVH in rats. The aorta was coarcted between right and left renal arteries, and animals received either SC58236 or vehicle for 1 week. At day 8, vehicle-treated coarcted rats were hypertensive (mean carotid arterial blood pressure: 138+/-3 versus 87+/-2 mm Hg in sham-operated controls; n=9 to 11; P<0.001) and exhibited a disparity of kidney size (ratio left/right kidney: 0.78+/-0.04 versus 1.02+/-0.02; n=9 to 10; P<0.001). PRA increased significantly (84.6+/-6.5 versus 9.0+/-1.4 ng angiotensin I [Ang I] per milliliter per hour; n=8 to 9; P<0.01). In the coarcted rats, neither renin mRNA expression nor renin activity of the right kidney was altered (renin/GAPDH mRNA: 1.12+/-0.05-fold levels in control rats; n=6; P=NS; renin activity: 23.4+/-1.8 versus 27.1+/-3.4 ng Ang I per hour per milligram protein; n=8 to 9; P=NS). However, the renin mRNA of the left kidney increased to 3.0+/-0.6-fold of control (n=6), and the renin activity increased to 189.0+/-28.6 ng Ang I per hour per milligram protein (n=8; P<0.01). Expression of COX-2 mRNA and immunoreactive protein increased in the affected left kidney but was not different from control in the unaffected right kidney. SC58236 treatment to coarcted rats did not affect kidney size (ratio left/right kidney: 0.79+/-0.06; n=9). However, PRA was significantly decreased compared with the vehicle-treated coarcted rats (19.8+/-2. 8 ng Ang I per milliliter per hour; n=9; P<0.01). The left kidney renin mRNA and renin content were also decreased (1.7+/-0.3-fold control; n=6; P<0.05; and 45.7+/-7.6 ng Ang I per hour per milligram protein; n=9; P<0.01, respectively), while renin mRNA and renin content of the right kidney were not altered. SC58236 lowered mean arterial blood pressure (122+/-5 mm Hg; n=14; P<0.05 compared with vehicle). A significant correlation was observed between PRA and mean blood pressure (r=0.75; P<0.01). In summary, these studies indicate that the selective COX-2 inhibitor SC58236 decreases renin production and release in RVH and suggest an important role for COX-2 regulation of the renin-angiotensin system.