Emerging evidence suggests that the intravenous injection of bone marrow-derived stromal cells (BMSC) improves renal function after acute tubular injury, but the mechanism of this effect is controversial. In this article, we confirm that intravenous infusion of male BMSC reduced the severity of cisplatin-induced acute renal failure in adult female mice. This effect was also seen when BMSC (or adipocyte-derived stromal cells (AdSC)), were given by intraperitoneal injection. Infusion of BMSC enhanced tubular cell proliferation after injury and decreased tubular cell apoptosis. Using the Y chromosome as a marker of donor stromal cells, examination of multiple kidney sections at one or four days after cell infusion failed to reveal any examples of stromal cells within the tubules, and only rare examples of stromal cells within the renal interstitium. Furthermore, conditioned media from cultured stromal cells induced migration and proliferation of kidney-derived epithelial cells and significantly diminished cisplatin-induced proximal tubule cell death in vitro. Intraperitoneal administration of this conditioned medium to mice injected with cisplatin diminished tubular cell apoptosis, increased survival, and limited renal injury. Thus, marrow stromal cells protect the kidney from toxic injury by secreting factors that limit apoptosis and enhance proliferation of the endogenous tubular cells, suggesting that transplantation of the cells themselves is not necessary. Identification of the stromal cell-derived protective factors may provide new therapeutic options to explore in humans with acute kidney injury.