Investigated was the effect of high albumin concentrations on proximal tubular cell expression of fractalkine. Human proximal tubular cells (HK-2) were incubated with human serum albumin (HSA), which induced a dose-dependent increase in fractalkine mRNA associated with increased levels of both membrane-bound and soluble forms of the protein. To evaluate the role of nuclear factor kappaB (NF-kappaB) activation in HSA-induced fractalkine mRNA, HK-2 cells were infected with a recombinant adenovirus encoding the natural inhibitor of NF-kappaB, IkBalpha; a 43% reduction of fractalkine mRNA levels resulted. Similarly, when cells were infected with the recombinant adenovirus expressing dominant negative mutant of the IkB kinase 2, a 55% inhibition of fractalkine mRNA was achieved. p38 mitogen-activated protein kinase was activated by HSA and was involved in NF-kappaB-dependent transcription of fractalkine. In kidneys of mice with bovine serum albumin overload proteinuria, fractalkine mRNA levels were 2.3-fold greater than those of controls. Fractalkine expression was also induced in tubular epithelial cells in this model. Anti-CXCR1 antibody treatment limited interstitial accumulation of mononuclear cells. Protein overload is a promoter of fractalkine gene induction mediated by NF-kappaB and p38 activation in proximal tubular cells. Fractalkine might contribute to direct mononuclear cells into peritubular interstitium and enhance their adhesion property, which in turn would favor inflammation and disease progression.