Cyst expansion in polycystic kidney disease (PKD) results in localized hypoxia in the kidney that may activate hypoxia-inducible factor-1α (HIF-1α). HIF-1α and autophagy, a form of programmed cell repair, are induced by hypoxia. The purposes were to determine HIF-1α expression and autophagy in rat and mouse models of PKD. HIF-1α was detected by electrochemiluminescence. Autophagy was visualized by electron microscopy (EM). LC3 and beclin-1, markers of autophagy, were detected by immunoblotting. Eight-week-old male heterozygous (Cy/+) and 4-wk-old homozygous (Cy/Cy) Han:SPRD rats, 4-wk-old cpk mice, and 112-day-old Pkd2WS25/- mice with a mutation in the Pkd2 gene were studied. HIF-1α was significantly increased in massive Cy/Cy and cpk kidneys and not smaller Cy/+ and Pkd2WS25/- kidneys. On EM, features of autophagy were seen in wild-type (+/+), Cy/+, and cpk kidneys: autophagosomes, mitophagy, and autolysosomes. Specifically, autophagosomes were found on EM in the tubular cells lining the cysts in cpk mice. The increase in LC3-II, a marker of autophagosome production and beclin, a regulator of autophagy, in Cy/Cy and cpk kidneys, followed the same pattern of increase as HIF-1α. To determine the role of HIF-1α in cyst formation and/or growth, Cy/+ rats, Cy/Cy rats, and cpk mice were treated with the HIF-1α inhibitor 2-methoxyestradiol (2ME2). 2ME2 had no significant effect on kidney volume or cyst volume density. In summary, HIF-1α is highly expressed in the late stages of PKD and is associated with an increase in LC3-II and beclin-1. The first demonstration of autophagosomes in PKD kidneys is reported. Inhibition of HIF-1α did not have a therapeutic effect.