Nehron filtration rate (sngfr) and the factors controlling filtration were examined before and with 60 min of the intravenous infusion of 225-450 mug of antiglomerular basement membrane antibody (AGBM Ab) (greater than 50% antigenic saturation) in plasma-expanded (2.5% body wt) Munich-Wistar rats. Pressures in glomerular capillaries (PG) and bowman's space (Pt) were measured with a servo-nulling device, systemic (piA) and efferent arteriolar oncotic pressures (piE) were measured by microprotein methods, and nephron plasma flow (rpf) and sngfr were measured by micropuncture techniques in both control and post-AGBM Ab conditions in each rat. The sngfr fell from 52.7+/-2.9 to 24.1+/-1.9 nl/min per g kidney wt (n = 7, P less than 0.001). Both afferent and efferent arteriolar resistances increased and rpf fell from 221+/-25 to 90+/-9 nl/min per g kidney wt (P less than 0.001) but the hydrostatic pressure gradient across the glomerular membrane deltaP = PG - Pt) increased from 37+/- 1 to 50+/-2 mm Hg (P less than 0.001). The increase in deltaP and a numerical decrease in piA both acted to maintain sngfr after AGBM Ab and effectively nullified the influence of decreased rpf upon sngfr. The mean effective filtration pressure (EFP = deltaP - pi) increased from 14+/-2 to 30+/-3 mm Hg (P less than 0.001) while sngfr decreased. The major and critical reason for this reduction in sngfr was a decrease in the glomerular permeability coefficient from 0.077+/-0.017 to 0.014+/-0.001 nl/s per g kidney wt per mm Hg P less than 0.001) where sngfr=EFP-LpA.