Thrombospondin 1 (TSP-1) is a matricellular protein that inhibits angiogenesis and causes apoptosis in vivo and in vitro in several cancerous cells and tissues. Here we identify TSP-1 as the molecule with the highest induction level at 3 hours of IR injury in rat and mouse kidneys subjected to ischemia/reperfusion (IR) injury using the DNA microarray approach. Northern hybridizations demonstrated that TSP-1 expression was undetectable at baseline, induced at 3 and 12 hours, and returned to baseline levels at 48 hours of reperfusion. Immunocytochemical staining identified the injured proximal tubules as the predominant sites of expression of TSP-1 in IR injury and showed colocalization of TSP-1 with activated caspase-3. Addition of purified TSP-1 to normal kidney proximal tubule cells or cells subjected to ATP depletion in vitro induced injury as demonstrated by cytochrome c immunocytochemical staining and caspase-3 activity. The deleterious role of TSP-1 in ischemic kidney injury was demonstrated directly in TSP-1 null mice, which showed significant protection against IR injury-induced renal failure and tubular damage. We propose that TSP-1 is a novel regulator of ischemic damage in the kidney and may play an important role in the pathophysiology of ischemic kidney failure.