Tubular cell loss is prominent both in acute and chronic renal failure. Apoptosis and its regulatory mechanisms contribute to cell number regulation in the kidney. The potential role of apoptosis ranges from induction and progression to repair of renal injury. However, therapeutic interest has focused in preventing the apoptotic loss of tubular cells that leads to acute and chronic renal failure. Death ligands and receptors, such as tumor necrosis factor and Fas ligand, proapoptotic and antiapoptotic Bcl2 family members and caspases have all been shown to participate in apoptosis regulation in the course of renal cell injury. Nevertheless, the precise role of these proteins is unclear, and the participation of most known apoptosis regulatory proteins has not been studied. We now review the role of apoptosis in renal injury, the potential molecular targets of therapeutic intervention, the therapeutic weapons to modulate the activity of these targets and the few examples of therapeutic intervention on apoptosis, with emphasis in acute renal failure.