Tenascin, a large oligomeric glycoprotein, is a recent addition to a list of increasing extracellular matrix proteins. Previous studies have documented the strong expression of tenascin in embryonic kidney and in both normal and abnormal mature glomeruli implicating an important role of this extracellular matrix protein in nephrogenesis and glomerular scarring. Whether tenascin plays any role in interstitial fibrosis, a common final pathway of tubulointerstitial nephritis, is not known; on the other hand, a detailed knowledge of the structural components of interstitial fibrosis is essential for further studies on other fundamental aspects of this biologically and clinically important process. In this study, the expression of tenascin in the renal interstitium was immunohistochemically evaluated in 208 renal specimens including normal kidney (23 cases), acute tubular necrosis (8), acute tubulointerstitial nephritis (8), chronic primary tubulointerstitial nephritis (30), tubulointerstitial nephritis secondary to glomerular diseases of mild (46) and severe (55) degree, ischemic damage (24), and rejection (14). It was found that in normal kidney tenascin expression was limited to the medullary interstitium. In kidney with tubulointerstitial nephritis, tenascin was ubiquitously and constantly expressed in any areas with tubulointerstitial damage regardless of diagnosis, etiology, the cortical vs. medullary location of the lesions, stage of the fibrogenetic process, density of fibroblasts, or severity of interstitial inflammation in the affected areas. Indeed, strong tenascin expression was seen in areas where there was only interstitial edema or inflammation as judged by routine light microscopic preparations. In summary, this study systematically documents tenascin as a novel extracellular matrix protein selectively expressed in the medullary interstitium in normal kidney, and ubiquitously present in areas with interstitial fibrosis.