To investigate whether the expression of angiotensinogen (ANG) in rat kidney proximal tubules is stimulated by dexamethasone and isoproterenol, immortalized rat proximal tubular cells (IRPTC) were cultured in a monolayer. Immunoreactive rat ANG (IR-rANG) in the culture medium was measured by a specific radioimmunoassay (RIA) for rANG. This RIA was developed by employing rabbit antiserum against the purified recombinant rat ANG (rANG). The purified rANG from plasma and the iodinated rANG were used as the hormone standard and tracer, respectively. The RIA is specific for rat ANG and it has no cross-reactivity with other pituitary hormone preparations or other rat plasma proteins. The sensitivity of detection of the RIA is approximately 2 ng of rANG. The levels of IR-rANG in the culture media of IRPTC ranged from 2 to 5 ng/ml/24 hr/10(6) cells. The addition of dexamethasone (10(-13) to 10(-5) M) stimulated the expression and secretion of rANG from IRPTC in a dose-dependent manner, whereas the addition of isoproterenol alone had no effect. However, a combination of both dexamethasone and isoproterenol synergistically stimulated the expression and secretion of rANG by IRPTC. The synergistic effect of dexamethasone and isoproterenol was blocked by the presence of RU 486 (a glucocorticoid receptor antagonist) or propranolol (beta-adrenoceptor blocker). These studies suggest that the addition of dexamethasone and isoproterenol acts synergistically to stimulate the expression and secretion of ANG protein in rat proximal tubules in vivo.