Nephrotoxicity is the major dose-limiting factor of cisplatin chemotherapy. Reactive oxygen species generated in mitochondria are thought to be the main cause of cellular damage in such injury. The present study examined, in vivo, the protective potential of the hydroxyl radical scavenger dimethylthiourea (DMTU) against cisplatin-induced effects on renal mitochondrial bioenergetics, redox state and oxidative stress. Adult male Wistar rats (200 to 220 g) were divided into four groups of eight animals each. The control group was treated only with an intraperitoneal (i.p.) injection of saline solution (1 ml/100 g body weight). The second group was given only DMTU (500 mg/kg body weight, i.p, followed by 125 mg/Kg, i.p., twice a day until they were killed). The third group was given a single injection of cisplatin (10 mg/kg body weight, i.p.). The fourth group was given DMTU (500 mg/kg body weight, i.p.), just before the cisplatin injection (10 mg/kg body weight, i.p.), followed by injections of DMTU (125 mg/kg body weight, i.p.) twice a day until they were killed. Animals were killed 72 h after the treatment. Besides not presenting any direct effect on mitochondria, DMTU substantially inhibited cisplatin-induced mitochondrial injury and cellular death by apoptosis, suppressing the occurrence of acute renal failure. All the following cisplatin-induced effects were prevented by DMTU: (1) increased plasmatic levels of creatinine and blood urea nitrogen (BUN); (2) decreased ATP content, calcium uptake and electrochemical potential; (3) oxidation of lipids, including cardiolipin; and oxidation of proteins, including sulfhydryl, and aconitase enzyme, as well as accumulation of carbonyl proteins; (4) depletion of the antioxidant defense (NADPH and GSH) and (5) increased activity of the apoptosis executioner caspase-3. Our findings show the important role played by mitochondria and hydroxyl radicals in cisplatin-induced nephrotoxicity, as well as the effectiveness of DMTU in preventing the renal mitochondrial damage caused by cisplatin. These results strongly suggest that protection of mitochondria by hydroxyl radical scavengers may be an interesting approach to prevent the kidney tissue damage caused by cisplatin-chemotherapy.