We have examined the effect of atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) administered with and without mannitol on renal function following ischemic injury in both the isolated erythrocyte-perfused rat kidney and in the rat in vivo. ANF, administered alone after 25 min ischemia in the isolated kidney, reversed postischemic vasoconstriction but did not improve glomerular filtration rate (GFR). Mannitol alone had no effect on either renal vascular resistance or GFR. However, in isolated kidneys treated with the combination of both ANF and mannitol following reflow, GFR (0.65 +/- 0.04 ml.min-1.g-1) was markedly improved compared with GFR in the untreated ischemia group (0.20 +/- 0.04 ml.min-1.g-1) and was not different from GFR in the nonischemic controls (0.68 +/- 0.05 ml.min-1.g-1). Comparable results were obtained in studies performed in vivo. In rats subjected to 45 min ischemia, GFR (0.15 +/- 0.05 ml/min) was reduced compared with the GFR in sham-operated animals (0.95 +/- 0.07 ml/min). ANF or mannitol administered alone following ischemia and reflow did not improve GFR compared with the untreated ischemic group. However, in rats subjected to ischemia and treated with a combination of ANF and mannitol postreflow, GFR (0.69 +/- 0.10 ml/min) was 4.6-fold higher than GFR in the untreated ischemic group. Thus the combination of ANF and mannitol appear to act synergistically to improve GFR following ischemic injury.