Improving the ability of the kidney to tolerate ischemic injury has important implications. We investigated the effect of recombinant human erythropoietin (rHuEPO) treatment on subsequent ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) injury and evaluated the role of heat shock protein (HSP) 70 in rHuEPO-induced renal protection. rHuEPO (3000 U/kg) was administered 24 h before I/R injury, and rats were killed at 24, 48, and 72 h after I/R injury. Pretreatment of rHuEPO resulted in the following: i) decreased serum creatinine level; ii) decreased tubular cell apoptosis and necrosis, measured by DNA fragmentation analysis and TUNEL staining and histomorphological criteria; iii) decreased tubular cell proliferation as determined by proliferating cell nuclear antigen expression; iv) increased bcl-2 protein and decreased caspase 3 activity; and v) decreased JNK expression. rHuEPO treatment increased HSP70 expression in a dose-dependent manner in normal rat kidneys, and inhibition of HSP70 expression by quercetin eliminated the renoprotective effect of rHuEPO in ischemic kidneys. Our study demonstrates that rHuEPO has a protective effect on subsequent I/R injury and that this effect is associated with induction of HSP70. Our study provides a new avenue for therapy to prevent renal damage after I/R injury.