This study was undertaken to explore the protective influence of mannitol against the glycerol model of myohemoglobinuric acute renal failure. Three hypotheses were tested: (1) mannitol confers cytoprotection by acutely blunting renal hypoperfusion, thereby improving tubular cell energetics; (2) as an hydroxyl radical (OH.) scavenger, mannitol mitigates Fe-driven lipid peroxidation and, hence, decreases tubular cell necrosis; and (3) mannitol prevents intrarenal heme pigment trapping, decreasing cast formation. Rats were injected with 50% glycerol (10 mL/kg im), followed immediately by an iv mannitol (1.25 mL/100 g over 1 h) or sham infusion. Mannitol induced a brisk diuresis (approximately 5.7 mL/2 h; approximately 35 mg of heme protein excreted), whereas glycerol controls were anuric. Mannitol did not significantly increase postglycerol RBF (2.8 mL/min), and it paradoxically worsened cellular energetics, halving cortical ATP concentrations at 1 h. However, this adverse effect on ATP was transient, correlating with active diuresis. Glycerol did not induce convincing in vivo lipid peroxidation (malondialdehyde; conjugated diene assay), and mannitol did not block Fe-driven in vitro lipid peroxidation of isolated brush border membrane vesicles. Na benzoate, an OH. scavenger, conferred no in vivo or in vitro protection. However, Na2SO4, not an OH. scavenger, reproduced the diuretic and in vivo protective effects of mannitol. Purified myoglobin infusion (35 mg) largely negated the beneficial action of mannitol. It was concluded that mannitol confers functional but not cytoprotection against the glycerol acute renal failure model, it acutely worsens renal bioenergetics, and its protective influence is probably due to a diuretic, not an antioxidant, effect.