Ischemic injury to the kidney is characterized in part by nucleotide depletion and tubular cell death in the form of necrosis or apoptosis. Recently, we linked anoxia-induced apoptosis in renal cell cultures specifically to the depletion of GTP. We therefore hypothesized that enhancing GTP repletion in vivo might protect function by reducing apoptosis in postischemic tubules. Male C57 black mice (the "I" group of animals) underwent bilateral renal artery clamp for 32 minutes to induce ischemia and then received either normal saline ("NS") or guanosine ("G"). After 1 hour of reperfusion, renal GTP levels in NS/I were reduced to nearly half of those in sham operated mice, whereas these levels were nearly unchanged in G/I mice. Morphologic examination of tubular injury revealed no significant differences between the two groups. However, there was a significant reduction in the number of apoptotic tubular cells in the medulla in the G/I group as compared with the NS/I group. At 24 hours, creatinine was significantly elevated in the NS/I group, compared to the G/I group. We conclude that guanosine protects against renal ischemic injury by replenishing GTP stores and preventing tubular apoptosis.