Leukotriene B4 (LTB4) is the major 5-lipoxgenase product released during early experimental glomerulonephritis. To test its functional relevance, its actions in the normal rat kidney and its influence on renal function in the heterologous phase of mild nephrotoxic serum-induced glomerular injury were examined. Intrarenal administration of leukotriene B4 resulted in mild vasorelaxant and natriuretic responses which were shared by 12(R)-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid but not 12(S)-leukotriene B4 or 12(S)-hydroxyeicosatetraenoic acid, suggesting activation of a common recognition site with a requirement for 12(R) stereochemistry. The polymorphonuclear cell-specific activator, N-formyl-Met-Leu-Phe, stimulated leukotriene B4 production from isolated perfused kidneys harvested from nephrotoxic serum-treated rats to a significantly greater degree than from control animals treated with nonimmune rabbit serum. The renal production of leukotriene B4 correlated directly and strongly (r = 0.79, P less than 0.01) with renal myeloperoxidase activity, suggesting interdependence of leukotriene B4 generation and polymorphonuclear cell infiltration. In vivo, intrarenal administration of leukotriene B4 to rats with mild nephrotoxic serum-induced injury was associated with an increase in polymorphonuclear cell infiltration, reduction in renal plasma flow rate, and marked exacerbation of the fall in glomerular filtration rate, the latter correlating strongly with the number of infiltrating polymorphonuclear cells/glomerulus, whereas inhibition of 5-lipoxygenase led to preservation of glomerular filtration rate and abrogation of proteinuria. Thus, although devoid of vasoconstrictor actions in the normal kidney, increased intrarenal generation of leukotriene B4 during early nephrotoxic serum-induced glomerular injury amplifies leukocyte-dependent reductions in glomerular perfusion and filtration rates, likely due to enhancement of polymorphonuclear cell recruitment/activation.