Experimental data suggests the recovery of renal function after ischemic or nephrotoxic acute renal failure is due to a replicative repair process dependent upon predominantly paracrine release of growth factors. These growth factors promote renal proximal tubule cell proliferation and a differentiation phase dependent on the interaction between tubule cells and basement membrane. These insights identify the molecular basis of renal repair and ischemic and nephrotoxic acute renal failure, and may lead to potential therapeutic modalities that accelerate renal repair and lessen the morbidity and mortality associated with these renal disease processes. In this regard, there is a prominent vasoconstrictor response of the renal vasculature during the postischemic period of developing acute renal failure. The intravenous administration of pharmacologic doses of atrial natriuretic factor (ANF) in the postischemic period have proven efficacious by altering renal vascular resistance, so that renal blood flow and glomerular filtration rate improve. ANF also appears to protect renal tubular epithelial integrity and holds significant promise as a therapeutic agent in acute renal failure. Of equal or greater promise are the therapeutic interventions targeting the proliferative reparative zone during the postischemic period. The exogenous administration of epidermal growth factor or insulin-like growth factor-1 in the postischemic period have effectively decreased the degree of renal insufficiency as measured by the peak serum creatinine and has hastened renal recovery as measured by the duration of time required to return the baseline serum creatinine values. A similarly efficacious role for hepatocyte growth factor has also been recently demonstrated.