In this study we tested the hypothesis that mesangial cells participate in autoregulation of the glomerular filtration rate (GFR) in normotensive and hypertensive rats. Mesangial cell lesions were induced by intravenous administration of antithymocyte (anti-Thy 1.1) antibodies in spontaneously hypertensive rats (SHR) and in Wistar-Kyoto rats (WKY). Normal murine serum was injected in control rats. Hemodynamic measurements were performed 24 h after the infusion of the anti-Thy 1.1 antibodies. Renal blood flow (RBF) was measured by a transit time flowmeter (Transonic) and the GFR was measured as the uptake of <sup>125</sup> iodine-labeled aprotinin (<sup>125</sup>I-Ap) by proximal tubular cells at the control renal arterial pressure and <sup>131</sup>I-Ap at a pressure reduction close to the lower pressure limit of RBF autoregulation. RBF was unaltered and the autoregulatory capability was maintained in SHR and WKY after mesangial cell lesions. Mesangiolysis significantly reduced the total GFR in normotensive, but not in hypertensive animals. The fractional compensation of the GFR was attenuated in the outer cortical layer (p < 0.05) in normotensive WKY In SHRs the fractional compensation of the GFR was impaired in all cortical layers after mesangiolysis, slightly more in the outer than in the inner cortex. We conclude that mesangial cells may contribute to the autoregulation of GFR in hypertensive rats, but to a lesser extent in normotensive rats.