Selective endothelin A (ET(A)) and combined ET(A) and ET(B) receptor antagonists are being investigated for use in treating diabetic nephropathy. However, the receptor-specific mechanisms responsible for producing the potential benefits have not been discerned. Thus, we determined the actions of ET(A) and ET(B) receptors on measures of glomerular function and renal inflammation in the early stages of diabetic renal injury in rats through the use of selective and combined antagonists. Six weeks after streptozotocin (STZ)-induced hyperglycemia, rats were given 2R-(4-methoxyphenyl)-4S-(1,3-benzodioxol-5-yl)-1-(N,N-di(n-butyl)aminocarbonyl-methyl)-pyrrolidine-3R-carboxylic acid (ABT-627) (5 mg/kg/day), a selective ET(A) antagonist; (2R,3R,4S)-4-(benzo[d][1,3]dioxol-5-yl)-2-(3-fluoro-4-methoxyphenyl)-1-(2-(N-propylpentylsulfonamido)ethyl)pyrrolidine-3-carboxylic acid hydrochloride (A-182086) (10 mg/kg/day), a combined ET(A/B) antagonist; or vehicle for 1 week. Sham controls received STZ vehicle (saline). Hyperglycemia led to significant proteinuria, increased glomerular permeability to albumin (P(alb)), nephrinuria, and an increase in total matrix metalloprotease (MMP) and transforming growth factor-β1 (TGF-β1) activities in glomeruli. Plasma and glomerular soluble intercellular adhesion molecule-1 (sICAM-1) and monocyte chemoattractant protein-1 (MCP-1) were elevated after 7 weeks of hyperglycemia. Daily administration of both ABT-627 and A-182086 for 1 week significantly attenuated proteinuria, the increase in P(alb), nephrinuria, and total MMP and TGF-β1 activity. However, glomerular sICAM-1 and MCP-1 expression was attenuated with ABT-627, but not A-182086, treatment. In summary, both selective ET(A) and combined ET(A/B) antagonists reduced proteinuria and glomerular permeability and restored glomerular filtration barrier component integrity, but only ET(A)-selective blockade had anti-inflammatory and antifibrotic effects. We conclude that selective ET(A) antagonists are more likely to be preferred for the treatment of diabetic kidney disease.