Rats were subjected to 25 min of unilateral renal artery occlusion and were studied at 5, 15, and 30 min and at 1, 2, 4, 8, 16, 24, and 48 hr following ischemia. The patterns of epithelial injury and repair in proximal tubule (PT) segments S1, S2, and S3 were followed, and associated changes in renal function were determined. We found that S1 and S2 cells alike are only reversibly injured and recover completely to normalcy within 4 hr, whereas S3 cells selectively undergo progressive cell injury and death and are exfoliated into tubular lumina. The necrotic S3 cells are replaced by mitotic division of survivor cells 24 to 48 hr following the ischemic insult. In addition, there was selective damage within tubular cells. Wiithin 5 min of blood reflow following ischemia, the majority of brush border microvilli (MV) in all three PT segments underwent coalescence by membrane fusion and thus were interiorized into the cytoplasm of PT cells. A minority of MV fragmented and were shed into PT lumina, but nephron obstruction by shed membranes was only mild and transient, unlike in the 1-hr ischemia model. Loss of MV reached a maximum of 15 min. By 30 min, MV began to reappear; by 2 hr, large numbers of MV had been regenerated; and by 4 hr, S1 and S2 cells appeared normal. The regenerative process included the luminal repositioning of previously interiorized MV membrane. MV regeneration occurred in S3 segments also, but before the process was complete, the cells developed features of irreversible cellular injury. Glomerular filtration rate (GFR) was 22% of control at 30 min of reflow, rose progressively to 55% of normal by 7 to 8 hr, and was normal at 24 hr. Single nephron filtration rate (SNGFR) was not significantly different from normal throughout. Proximal tubular sodium reabsorption was depressed and urinary sodium excretion increased at 30 min and at 2 to 3 hr, i.e., at times when MV alterations were prominent, but both were normal by 7 to 8 hr when MV in S1 and S2 cells had been fully reconstituted. Our major conclusions are: 1) There is differential susceptibility by cell type to ischemic injury in rat PT. 2) A rapid brush border loss/regeneration cycle occurs after ischemic injury. 3) Intact brush border may be required for normal sodium reabsorption by PT. Reasons for the GFR/SNGFR discrepancy are unclear, but tubular malfunction may partly explain the phenomenon.