Background: Generation of thrombin occurs in response to parenchymal injury. Thrombin not only converts plasma fibrinogen into an insoluble fibrin clot, but also potentially augments inflammation through receptor-mediated activity. This study examines whether thrombin may potentially exacerbate fibrosis by upregulating the function of interstitial fibroblasts in vitro. Methods: Fibroblasts were isolated by explant outgrowth culture of rat kidneys. Subcultured cells were grown in DMEM+10% FCS supplemented with 0.1–0.5 U/ml thrombin. Functional parameters examined included kinetics (thymidine incorporation and change in cell number), differentiation (Western blotting for α-smooth muscle actin; αSMA), expression of procollagen α1(I) (Northern blotting) and contraction of collagen I lattices. RT-PCR was used to characterise expression of protease-activated receptors (PAR) previously implicated in thrombin’s cellular effects. Results: Cell population growth was increased 66 ± 41 and 47 ± 41% by 0.1 and 0.5 U/ml thrombin respectively (both p < 0.05 vs. basal). Likewise, 0.5 U/ml thrombin increased corrected procollagen α1(I) expression 2.4-fold (p < 0.05 vs. basal) and exacerbated the ability of fibroblasts to contract collagen matrix (p < 0.05 vs. basal). These effects were not associated with any change in expression of the myofibroblast marker αSMA. Effects on cell number were inhibited by treatment with ( D)-Phe-Pro-Arg-chloromethylketone HCl (PPACK) suggesting that functional effects were mediated by serine protease activity. PAR-1 was the only fully functional known thrombin receptor expressed by these cells. Conclusion: Thrombin is a potential unrecognised fibroblast agonist in renal disease. Further studies of thrombin and its receptors may yield valuable insights into the pathogenesis of interstitial fibrosis.