This study defines the nature of the renal protective effects of calcium channel blockers (Ca blockers) and the effects of the Ca blocker, amlodipine, compared to those of the angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitor (ACEI), enalapril, on the progression of renal injury in 5/6 nephrectomized spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) fed a high-salt diet. Furthermore, we studied the effects of various Ca blockers on the glomerular afferent and efferent arterioles using the isolated perfused hydronephrotic kidneys of six-week-old male Sprague-Dawley rats. In the first study, forty 6-week-old male SHRs which underwent 5/6 nephrectomy were equally divided into five groups. One group received no therapy. In two groups, therapy was started at four weeks post-nephrectomy, one with amlodipine and the other with enalapril. In the remaining two groups, amlodipine or enalapril therapy was started at eight weeks postnephrectomy. Amlodipine was more effective than enalapril in reducing proteinuria and glomerulosclerosis in the group that was started on drug therapy eight weeks after surgery. In the second study, at concentrations of 10(-6) to 10(-9) M, nifedipine, nicardipine and amlodipine dilated the afferent, but not the efferent, arteriole preconstricted with angiotensin II. On the other hand, efonidipine and manidipine clearly dilated angiotensin II-induced constriction of both the afferent and efferent arterioles. These results indicated that Ca blockers are effective at reducing renal injury in 5/6 nephrectomized SHR, and that they are more effective than ACEI in advanced stages of renal injury. The observation that only certain Ca blockers can dilate the efferent arteriole suggests that the renal protective effect of Ca blockers is not necessarily dependent on the dilation of the efferent arterioles.