All progressive renal diseases are the consequence of a process of destructive fibrosis. This review will focus on tubulointerstitial fibrosis, the pathophysiology of which will be divided into four arbitrary phases. First is the cellular activation and injury phase. The tubules are activated, the peritubular capillary endothelium facilitates migration of mononuclear cells into the interstitium where they mature into macrophages, and myofibroblasts/activated fibroblasts begin to populate the interstitium. Each of these cells releases soluble products that contribute to ongoing inflammation and ultimately fibrosis. The second phase, the fibrogenic signaling phase, is characterized by the release of soluble factors that have fibrosis-promoting effects. Several growth factors and cytokines have been implicated, with primary roles suggested for transforming growth factor-beta, connective tissue growth factor, angiotensin II and endothelin-1. Additional factors may participate including platelet-derived growth factor, basic fibroblast growth factor, tumor necrosis factor-alpha and interleukin-1, while interferon-gamma and hepatocyte growth factor may elicit antifibrotic responses. Third is the fibrogenic phase when matrix proteins, both normal and novel to the renal interstitium, begin to accumulate. During this time both increased matrix protein synthesis and impaired matrix turnover are evident. The latter is due to the renal production of protease inhibitors such as the tissue inhibitors of metalloproteinases and plasminogen activator inhibitors which inactivate the renal proteases that normally regulate matrix turnover. Fourth is the phase of renal destruction, the ultimate sequel to excessive matrix accumulation. During this time the tubules and peritubular capillaries are obliterated. The number of intact nephrons progressively declines resulting in a continuous reduction in glomerular filtration.