Kidney injury, including acute kidney injury (AKI) and chronic kidney disease (CKD), has become very common in critically ill patients treated in ICUs. Many epidemiological studies have revealed significant associations of AKI and CKD with poor outcomes of high mortality and medical costs. Although many basic studies have clarified the possible mechanisms of sepsis and septic AKI, translation of the obtained findings to clinical settings has not been successful to date. No specific drug against human sepsis or AKI is currently available. Remarkable progress of dialysis techniques such as continuous renal replacement therapy (CRRT) has enabled control of “uremia” in hemodynamically unstable patients; however, dialysis-requiring septic AKI patients are still showing unacceptably high mortality of 60–80 %. Therefore, further investigations must be conducted to improve the outcome of sepsis and septic AKI. A possible target will be remote organ injury caused by AKI. Recent basic studies have identified interleukin-6 and high mobility group box 1 (HMGB1) as important mediators for acute lung injury induced by AKI. Another target is the disease pathway that is amplified by pre-existing CKD. Vascular endothelial growth factor and HMGB1 elevations in sepsis were demonstrated to be amplified by CKD in CKD-sepsis animal models. Understanding the role of kidney injury as an amplifier in sepsis and multiple organ failure might support the identification of new drug targets for sepsis and septic AKI.