The mammalian kidney is susceptible to injury by ischemia/reperfusion and toxins, and regeneration after injury is characterized by hyperplasia and recovery of the damaged epithelial cells that line the tubules. Locally produced growth factors may serve as mediators of nephrogenesis and differentiation during renal development and of renal regeneration after acute injury. In cultured cells, administration of one or a mixture of growth factors to quiescent cells will initiate progression through the cell cycle and cell division. In the adult kidney, cell division normally is very low, but will increase up to 10-fold after acute injury. In addition to proliferation after lethal injury, there also is cellular repair in cells that have undergone sublethal injury. Recent studies indicate that growth factors inhibit programmed cell death in response to acute injury. Growth factors also may initiate or promote protein and lipid biosynthesis and provide an intracellular milieu that promotes cellular repair. In addition to cellular repair, growth factors also may be involved in the re-establishment of cell-extracellular matrix and cell-cell integrity. Finally, growth factors may limit injury by decreasing the factors that induce damage. Increased local renal expression of growth factors in response to acute injury include heparin binding epidermal growth factor (HB-EGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), insulin-like growth factor-I (IGF-I), transforming growth factor-beta, parathyroid hormone-related peptide, and acidic fibroblast growth factor. In a number of experimental models of acute renal injury, administration of exogenous growth factors has been shown to accelerate both structural and functional recovery. Specifically, EGF, IGF-1, and HGF all have been shown to be effective in this regard. These studies are reviewed and potential therapeutic uses of growth factors and cytokines will be discussed.