The present study was designed to identify the source and kinetics of an alternatively spliced "embryonic" cellular fibronectin EIIIA (cFn-EIIIA) in relation to regenerating renal tubules in uranyl acetate (UA)-induced acute renal failure (ARF) in rats. Damage of the proximal tubules was found as early as day 2 after induction of ARF, peaked at day 5, and was almost substituted by epithelial relining by day 7. Immunohistochemistry showed de novo deposition of cFn-EIIIA in peritubular regions as early as day 2, then on the tubular basement membrane (TBM) after day 4. beta1 Integrin, the receptor for Fn, was mainly found at the basal side of tubules in the normal control and increased in the interstitium after induction of ARF, but the staining pattern gradually returned to the control after day 7. Immunoelectron microscopy revealed that cFn-EIIIA was produced initially by the peritubular endothelium and later by fibroblastic cells and was deposited to the TBM, on which regenerating tubules proliferated, probably with cFn-EIIIA production. beta1 Integrin was expressed in cFn-EIIIA-producing cells, especially in regenerating tubular cells, suggesting that cFn-EIIIA signal transduction affects regenerating tubules. Transforming growth factor (TGF)-beta1 was found in some damaged proximal tubules and interstitial cells after induction of ARF and later in the regenerating tubules. CFn-EIIIA and beta1 integrin mRNA levels were upregulated as early as day 2. TGF-beta1 mRNA level significantly increased after day 3, suggesting a modulatory role for TGF-beta1 on cFn-EIIIA production, but not by day 2. Our data suggest that cFn-EIIIA production by the endothelium during the very early response to tubular injury and by fibroblastic cells and regenerating tubules may play an important role in the cellular recovery of UA-induced ARF in rats.