Renal ischemia/reperfusion (I/R) is a common cause of acute renal failure (ARF). Ischemic ARF is associated with tubulointerstitial inflammation, and studies using animal models have demonstrated that the inflammatory response to I/R exacerbates the resultant renal injury. Ischemic ARF involves complement activation, the generation of cytokines and chemokines within the kidney, and infiltration of the kidney by leukocytes. Recent work has revealed some of the events and signals that trigger the inflammatory response to aseptic, hypoxic injury of the kidney. In many ways, the inflammatory reaction to this injury resembles that seen during ascending urinary infection, and it may represent a general response of the tubular epithelial cells (TECs) to stress or injury. A greater understanding of the signals that trigger the inflammatory response may permit the development of effective therapies to ameliorate ischemic ARF.