In contrast to the heart or brain, the kidney can completely recover from an ischemic or toxic insult that results in cell death. During recovery from ischemia/reperfusion injury, surviving tubular epithelial cells dedifferentiate and proliferate, eventually replacing the irreversibly injured tubular epithelial cells and restoring tubular integrity. Repair of the kidney parallels kidney organogenesis in the high rate of DNA synthesis and apoptosis and in patterns of gene expression. As has been shown by proliferating cell nuclear antigen and 5-bromo 2'-deoxyuridine labeling studies and, in unpublished studies, by counting mitotic spindles identified by labeling with antitubulin antibody, the proliferative response is rapid and extensive, involving many of the remaining cells of the proximal tubule. This extensive proliferative capacity is interpreted to reflect the intrinsic ability of the surviving epithelial cell to adapt to the loss of adjacent cells by dedifferentiating and proliferating. Adhesion molecules likely play important roles in the regulation of renal epithelial cell migration, proliferation, and differentiation, as do cytokines and chemokines. Better understanding of all of the characteristics resulting in dedifferentiation and proliferation of the proximal tubule epithelial cell and cell-cell and cell-matrix interactions important for this repair function will lead to novel approaches to therapies designed to facilitate the processes of recovery in humans.