Acute renal failure secondary to ischemic injury remains a common problem, with limited and unsatisfactory therapeutic options. Neutrophil gelatinase-associated lipocalin (NGAL) was recently shown to be one of the maximally induced genes early in the postischemic kidney. In this study, the role of NGAL in ischemic renal injury was explored. Intravenous administration of purified recombinant NGAL in mice resulted in a rapid uptake of the protein predominantly by proximal tubule cells. In an established murine model of renal ischemia-reperfusion injury, intravenous NGAL administered before, during, or after ischemia resulted in marked amelioration of the morphologic and functional consequences, as evidenced by a significant decrease in the histopathologic damage to tubules and in serum creatinine measurements. NGAL-treated animals also displayed a reduction in the number of apoptotic tubule cells and an increase in proliferating proximal tubule cells after ischemic injury. The results indicate that NGAL may represent a novel therapeutic intervention in ischemic acute renal failure, based at least in part on its ability to tilt the balance of tubule cell fate toward survival.